Sports fans have always thought of Pittsburgh as “football country.” The mostly blue collar city has had a nearly century-long love affair with the hometown Pittsburgh Steelers.
In this environment where football comes first and all other sports are often overlooked, it has generally been difficult for the city’s Major League Baseball franchise, the Pittsburgh Pirates, to find and retain fans.
That was especially true for the twenty-five or so years from the late 1980s until a couple of years ago when, after countless annual high draft picks, the second fiddle Pirates finally began to win. Now, one of baseball’s top teams, the Pirates, like the Steelers, have a devoted fan base, local folks who come out to support their team.
For the faithful Pirates, “coming out” means traveling to PNC Park, a truly handsome and modern ballpark that first opened in 2003, just twelve years ago.
A day at PNC Park always holds out the promise of a terrific time. The team is good and wins the majority of its home games. The ballpark is clean, comfortable and inviting. Better yet, every seat offers unobstructed views of the action on the field.
And, as for the field, its dimensions are sensible. The distance between home plate and left field is 325 feet, while it is 330 feet in right field. Power alleys require better contact when bat meets ball. It is 383 feet to left center-field, 375 feet to right center-field. Surprisingly, the deepest part of the park is not in center field which is 399 feet from the batter’s box. Deep left center-field is 410 feet from the point where batted balls take flight.
Importantly, this fan-friendly environment has room for 38,362 fans. The attendance record, however, is 40,629. That is how many people showed up for the National League Wild Card game between the Pirates and Reds on October 1, 2013.
It was the first playoff game to take place in PNC Park and the home team sent fans home happy when it won the game 6-2.
While PNC Park exists as a single purpose stadium, the exclusive home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, it did host a college baseball game in 2003 between the Pitt Panthers and their arch rival, the Duquesne Dukes.
However, it is concerts, not college baseball games that occur with some regularity in this good-looking and comfortable baseball park.
In the years since it opened, many big name acts have appeared in concerts, including Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, the Rolling Stones, the Dave Matthews Band, Pearl Jam and many, many more.
The 2006 Major League Baseball All Star Game produced a record crowd of 38,904. It was the fifth All Star game hosted by Pittsburgh in its long history.
PNC Park figures to be the destination for Pittsburgh’s legions of fans for several years to come. Team management is “banking” on it.
Graphic via trunews