PNC Park opened in 2001 at the height of the ballpark opening frenzy that occurred around the turn of the Millennium. Right out of the gate, PNC immediately stood out from the crowd of new stadiums. So – how did Pittsburgh Pirates manage to gain national respect with their ballpark, you ask?
PNC does a phenomenal job of incorporating the experience at the ballpark with the city in which it represents. The Golden Triangle (Pittsburgh Central Business District) sits just across the Banks of the Allegheny River and is very much part of the game day experience.
Statues of Honas Wagner, Bobby Clemente and Willie Stargell sprinkle the outside of PNC while a limestone facade with blue trim make for a handsome outward appearance. PNC Park is one of the few two-deck designed parks in baseball, as it was meant to remain intimate to retain a feeling of older ballparks like Wrigley Field. The seating capacity is only 38,362, which means that every seat is a good one.
The large score board in left field keep fans entertained (think pierogie races) and the out-of-town score board does an outstanding job of keeping you up to speed with what is happening around the league. Add to that is the symbolic Roberto Clemente Bridge (which shuts down on
game days – plan to walk to the game on it- it’s a great experience) and a ballpark that pays homage to it’s local baseball history. There also is a hall of fame for the Pirates who have been around since 1887.
There are a few very interesting options for getting to a game of PNC. Since the ballpark is in the same vicinity as Heinz Field, there is a plethora of parking spaces which is very conducive for tailgating. The T (light rail subway) currently takes you around downtown Pittsburgh and it’s an easy walk to the ballpark over the Clemente Bridge. In 2011, the T will open a new station on the North Shore that will service PNC. Water Shuttles ($10 round trip) leaving from Station Square is the most interesting way to get to the game. For those looking to see a game on the cheap, downtown parking garages offer specials on game days for as little as $5.
Seats at PNC aren’t going to break the bank. Then again you are watching the Pirates who haven’t put together a winning season since Barry Bonds left town. The $9 general admission seats are probably your best bet for those on a budget as PNC is perfect for milling around and sampling the different parts of the stadium. You can basically choose your own seats as PNC has a laxed seating policy for their ushers. If you want to get seats, go for the upper deck on the third base side. From up here you will be treated to the best views of the cityscape and ballpark. Seats perched above the 21 foot right field wall are interesting as they exit to the river walk. There really isn’t a bad seat in the house so our suggestion is toperuse this great facility as much as possible and move from seat to seat.
Food at PNC is excellent, definitely one of those ballparks you come hungry too. You have to go to Primanti Bros and get one of their famous sandwiches. These legendary sandwiches incorporates your choice of meat between two white Italian slices of bread, coupled with fresh cut french fries, Italian style cole-slaw and of course cheese. It’s a complete Pittsburgh style meal and it’s to die for. Ex Bucco Manny Sanguillen smokes up excellent BBQ along the river-walk in center field. If those don’t satisfy your appetites then think about going to Pops, which is a food court named in honor of Willie Stargell. Here you can find Gyros, Fresh Cut French Fries and of course Chicken-on-the-Hill. Another food court called Smorgasburgh has QSL wings and local favorite Benkovitz Fish. Bonus is that you are actually allowed to carry in your own foodinto the ballpark. The only knock on PNC is their hot dogs are unremarkable and are rather salty. Side Note: When the Crosshair Guide visited PNC, hot dogs were a dollar- our neighbor sitting to the left purchased 20 of them.
PNC isn’t the best ballpark when it comes to beer, but they do one thing right, and that is not ignoring their local brewers. Want to look like a local? Grab an Iron or an IC Light (Iron City). Penn Pilsner does their brewing up the street from here and is well featured at the ballpark. The best place to grab a beer is at “Beers of the Burgh” located in Smorgasburgh food court. The import selection isn’t outstanding and many folks opt for the typical Bud and Miller lights of the world. There are plenty of places to grab a beer at prices which aren’t terrible for the ballpark. Note: After the game, the club below the scoreboard offers specials on beer and Karaoke, so be on the look out.
PNC Park’s storefronts and business spill out on to the street and incorporate the surround neighborhood, which has seen a rejuvenation itself. There are a few bars that provide decent nightlife in the shadow of the ballpark. There are also a few hotels and a smattering of restaurants ranging from a high-end steak joint to a Mexican cantina.
Overall, PNC can provide an amazing baseball experience. It is one of the most accessible ballparks that we have featured and we highly recommend going to see a game here. It is an experience that is uniquely Pittsburgh- is it any wonder ESPN ranked this the best ballpark in the country?