PNC Park

PNC Park is a baseball park located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is the fifth home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, the city's Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise. It opened during the 2001 Major League Baseball season, after the controlled implosion of the Pirates' previous home, Three Rivers Stadium. The ballpark is sponsored by PNC Financial Services, which purchased the naming rights in 1998. PNC Park features a natural grass playing surface and seats 38,496 people for baseball, which as of 2011 is the fifth-smallest capacity of any Major League park.

Funded in conjunction with Heinz Field and the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, the $216 million park stands along the Allegheny River, on the North Shore of Pittsburgh with a view of Downtown Pittsburgh. Plans to build a new stadium for the Pirates originated in 1991, but did not come to fruition for five years. Built in the style of "classic" stadiums, such as Boston's Fenway Park, PNC Park also introduced unique features, such as the use of limestone in the building's facade. The park also features a riverside concourse, steel truss work, an extensive out-of-town scoreboard, and many local eateries. Constructed faster than most modern stadiums, PNC Park was built in a 24-month span.

Since completion, PNC Park has been hailed as one of the best ballparks in the country. It has the third-cheapest average ticket prices of any MLB stadium and has helped attract business to surrounding establishments, though the Pirates have not had a winning season since they moved to the stadium. PNC Park hosted the 2006 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, the fifth MLB All-Star Game held in Pittsburgh, to date the only All-Star Game held in Pittsburgh to be won by the American League.

Planning and funding

On September 5, 1991, Pittsburgh mayor Sophie Masloff proposed a new 44,000-seat stadium for the Pittsburgh Pirates on the city's Northside.Three Rivers Stadium, the Pirates' home at the time, had been designed for functionality rather than "architecture and aesthetics". The location of Three Rivers Stadium came to be criticized for being in a hard-to-access portion of the city, where traffic congestion occurred before and after games. Discussions about a new ballpark took place, but were never seriously considered until entrepreneur Kevin McClatchy purchased the team in February 1996. Until McClatchy's purchase, plans about the team remaining in Pittsburgh were uncertain. In 1996, Masloff's successor, Tom Murphy, created the "Forbes Field II Task Force". Made up of 29 political and business leaders, the team studied the challenges of constructing a new ballpark. Their final report, published on June 26, 1996, evaluated 13 possible locations. The "North Side site" was recommended due to its affordable cost, potential to develop the surrounding area, and opportunity to incorporate the city skyline into the stadium's design. The site selected for the ballpark is just upriver from the site of early Pirates home field Exposition Park.

After a political debate, public money was used to fund PNC Park. Originally, a sales tax increase was proposed to fund three projects: PNC Park, Heinz Field, and an expansion of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. However, after the proposal was soundly rejected in a referendum, the city developed Plan B. Similarly controversial, the alternative proposal was labeled Scam B by opponents. Some members of the Allegheny Regional Asset District felt that the Pirates' pledge of $40 million toward the new stadium was too little, while others criticized the amount of public money allocated for Plan B. One member of the Allegheny Regional Asset District board called the use of tax dollars "corporate welfare." The plan, totaling $809 million, was approved by the Allegheny Regional Asset District board on July 9, 1998—with $228 million allotted for PNC Park. Shortly after Plan B was approved, the Pirates made a deal with Pittsburgh city officials to remain in the city until at least 2031.

There was popular sentiment by fans for the Pirates to name the stadium after former outfielder Roberto Clemente. However, locally-based PNC Financial Services purchased the stadium's naming rights in August 1998. As per the agreement, PNC Bank will pay the Pirates approximately $2 million each year through 2020, and also has a full-service PNC branch at the stadium. The total cost of PNC Park was $216 million. Shortly after the naming rights deal was announced, the city of Pittsburgh renamed the Sixth Street Bridge near the southeast corner of the site of the park the Roberto Clemente Bridge as a compromise to fans who had wanted the park named after Clemente.

Design and construction

Kansas City-based Populous, which is considered to be the "leading stadium design firm in the ," designed the ballpark. The design and construction management team consisted of the Dick Corporation and Barton Malow. An effort was made in the design of PNC Park to salute other "classic style" ballparks, such as Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, and Pittsburgh's Forbes Field; the design of the ballpark's archways, steel truss work, and light standards are results of this goal. PNC Park was the first two-deck ballpark to be built in the United States since Milwaukee County Stadium opened in 1953. The park features a 24 by 42 foot (7.3 by 12.8 m) Sony JumboTron, which is accompanied by the first-ever LED video boards in an outdoor MLB stadium. PNC Park is the first stadium to feature an out-of-town scoreboard with the score, inning, count, number of outs, and base runners for every other game being played around the league.

Ground was broken for PNC Park on April 7, 1999, after a ceremony to rename the Sixth Street Bridge as the "Roberto Clemente Bridge" in honor of the late Pirate Roberto Clemente. Due to traffic problems after the Park's opening, the bridge is closed to vehicular traffic on game days to allow spectators to park in Pittsburgh's Golden Triangle and walk across the bridge to the stadium. PNC Park was built with Kasota limestone shipped from a Minnesota river valley, to contrast the brick bases of other modern stadiums. The stadium was constructed over a 24-month span—at the time of construction, three months faster than any other modern major league ballpark—and the Pirates played their first game less than two years after groundbreaking. The quick construction was accomplished with the use of special computers, which relayed building plans to builders 24 hours per day. In addition, all 23 labor unions involved in the construction signed a pact that they would not strike during the building process. As a result of union involvement and attention to safety regulations, the construction manager, the Dick Corporation, received a merit award for its safety practices from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. PNC Park is inspected yearly, along with Heinz Field, by Chronicle Consulting, LLC, for structural defects and maintenance.

Statues of Pirates' Hall of Famers Honus Wagner, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell and Bill Mazeroski are positioned at various points outside of PNC Park. Wagner and Clemente's statues were previously located outside of Three Rivers Stadium, and after the venue was imploded, the two statues were removed from their locations, refurbished, and relocated outside PNC Park. Wagner's statue was originally unveiled at Forbes Field in 1955. The base of Clemente's statue is shaped like a baseball diamond, with dirt from three of the fields Clemente played at—Santurce Field in Carolina, Puerto Rico, Forbes Field, and Three Rivers Stadium—at each base. On October 1, 2000, after the final game at Three Rivers Stadium, Stargell threw out the ceremonial last pitch. He was presented with a model of a statue that was to be erected in his honor outside of PNC Park. The statue was officially unveiled on April 7, 2001; however, Stargell did not attend due to health problems and died of a stroke two days later. A statue for Bill Mazeroski was added at the right field entrance, at the south end of Mazeroski Way, during the 2010 season. This was the 50th anniversary of the Pirates' 1960 World Series championship, which Mazeroski clinched with a Game 7 walk-off home run at Forbes Field. The statue itself was designed based on that event.

Opening and reception

The Pirates opened PNC Park with two pre-season games against the New York Mets—the first of which was played on March 31, 2001. The first official baseball game played in PNC Park was between the Cincinnati Reds and the Pirates, on April 9, 2001. The Reds won the game by the final score of 8–2. The first pitch—a ball—was thrown from Pittsburgh's Todd Ritchie to Barry Larkin. In the top of the first inning, Sean Casey's two-run home run was the first hit in the park. The first Pirates' batter, Adrian Brown, struck out; however, later in the inning Jason Kendall singled—the first hit by a Pirate in their new stadium.

PNC Park had an average attendance of 30,742 people per game throughout its inaugural season, though it would drop approximately 27% the following season to 22,594 spectators per game. Throughout the 2001 season, businesses in downtown and on the Northside of Pittsburgh showed a 20–25% increase in business on Pirate game days.

Pirates' vice-president Steve Greenberg said, "We said when construction began that we would build the best ballpark in baseball, and we believe we've done that." Major League Baseball executive Paul Beeston said the park was "the best he's seen so far in baseball." Many of the workers who built the park said that it was the nicest that they had seen. Jason Kendall, Pittsburgh's catcher at the opening of the park, called PNC Park "the most beautiful ballpark in the game." Different elements of PNC Park were used in the design of New York's Citi Field.

Upon opening in 2001, PNC Park was praised by fans and media alike. writer Jim Caple ranked PNC Park as the best stadium in Major League Baseball, with a score of 95 out of 100. Caple compared the park to Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, calling the stadium itself "perfect", and citing high ticket prices as the only negative aspect of visiting the park. Jay Ahjua, author of Fields of Dreams: A Guide to Visiting and Enjoying All 30 Major League Ballparks, called PNC Park one of the "top ten places to watch the game." In 2008, Men's Fitness named the park one of "10 big league parks worth seeing this summer." A 2010 unranked list of "America's 7 Best Ballparks" published by ABC News noted that PNC Park "combines the best features of yesterday's ballparks—rhythmic archways, steel trusswork and a natural grass playing field—with the latest in fan and player amenities and comfort."


In 2007, Allegheny County passed a ban on smoking in most public places, thus making PNC Park completely smoke-free. Prior to the 2008 season, the Pirates made multiple alterations to PNC Park. The biggest change was removing the Outback Steakhouse located underneath the scoreboard, and adding a new restaurant known as The Hall of Fame Club. Unlike its predecessor, The Hall of Fame Club is open to all ticket-holders on game days; it includes an outdoor patio with a bar and seats with a view of the field. The Pirates feature bands in The Hall of Fame Club after the completion of select games—the first performance was by Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers. The Pirates also announced a program to make the park more environmentally friendly, by integrating "greening initiatives, sustainable business practices and educational outreach." In addition, club and suite sections were outfitted with high-definition televisions.

Other events

PNC Park hosted the 77th Major League Baseball All-Star Game on July 11, 2006. The American League defeated the National League by a score of 3–2, with 38,904 spectators in attendance. The first All-Star Game in PNC Park, it was the fifth All-Star Game hosted in Pittsburgh, and the first since 1994. During the game, late Pirate Roberto Clemente was honored with the Commissioner's Historic Achievement Award; his wife, Vera, accepted on his behalf. The stadium hosted the Century 21 Home Run Derby the previous evening; Ryan Howard, of the Philadelphia Phillies, won the title. During the Derby, Howard and David Ortiz hit home runs into the Allegheny River.

PNC Park has hosted various evacuation and response drills, which would be used in the event of a terrorist attack. Members of the United States Department of Homeland Security laid out the groundwork for the initial drill in February 2004. In May 2005, 5,000 volunteers participated in the $1 million evacuation drill, which included mock explosions. A goal of the drill was to test the response of 49 western Pennsylvania emergency agencies. In April 2006, the Department of Homeland Security worked in conjunction with the United States Coast Guard to develop a plan of response for the 2006 All-Star Game. Similar exercises were conducted on the Allegheny River in 2007.

The first collegiate baseball game at PNC Park was played on May 6, 2003, between the Pitt Panthers and the Duquesne Dukes, a rivalry that was referred to as the City Game. Duquesne won the game by a score of 2–1. However, due to Duquesne's decision to disband their baseball program following the 2010 season, the series between the two schools came to an end. The PNC Park City Game series ended in Pitt's favor, four games to two, with the 2007 game canceled because of poor field conditions.

PNC Park has also hosted various concerts, including The Rolling Stones and Pearl Jam in 2005, Jimmy Buffett and Me First and the Gimme Gimmes in 2006 and Dave Matthews Band with opening act, Zac Brown Band, on July 10, 2010. The park also served as one of the locations for the 2010 film She's Out of My League.

Playing surface and dimensions

The playing surface of PNC Park is Tuckahoe Bluegrass, which is a mixture of various types of Kentucky Bluegrass. Installed prior to the 2009 season, the grass surface was selected for its "high quality pedigree that is ideal for Northern cities such as Pittsburgh." The infield dirt is a mixture known as "Dura Edge All-Star Infield Mix" and was designed solely for PNC Park. The 18-foot warning track is crushed lava rock. The drainage system underneath the field is capable of handling 14 inches (36 cm) of rain per hour. The original playing surface consisted of sand-based natural grass, and was replaced prior to the 2006 season. Unlike most ballparks, PNC Park's home dugout is located along the third base line instead of the first base line; giving the home team a view of the city skyline. The outfield fence ranges from a height of 6 feet (2 m) in left field to 10 feet (3 m) in center field and 21 feet (6 m) in right field, a tribute to former Pirate right fielder Roberto Clemente, who wore number 21. The distance from home plate to the outfield fence ranges from 320 feet (98 m) in right field to 410 feet (125 m) in left center; the straightaway center field fence is set at 399 feet (122 m). At its closest point, the Allegheny River is 443 feet (135 m) and 4 inches (10 cm) from home plate. On July 6, 2002, Daryle Ward became the only player to hit a home run into the river on the fly, when he hit a grand slam off Pirates pitcher Kip Wells.

Seating and ticket prices

During its opening season, PNC Park's seating capacity of 38,496 was the second-smallest of any major league stadium—the smallest being Fenway Park. Seats are angled toward the field and aisles are lowered to give spectators improved views of the field. The majority of the seats, 26,000, are on the first level, and the highest seat in the stadium is 88 feet (27 m) above the playing surface. At 51 feet (16 m), the batter is closer to the seats behind home plate than to the pitcher. At their closest point, seating along the baselines is 45 feet (14 m) from the bases. The four-level steel rotunda and a section above the out-of-town scoreboard offer standing-room only space. With the exception of the bleacher sections, all seats in the park offer a view of Pittsburgh's skyline.

From its opening through the 2009 season, PNC Park's tickets have remained between $9 to $35 for general admission. The stadium includes 69 luxury suites and 5,558 suite and club seats, with prices ranging from $47 to $210 per ticket throughout the 2008 season. One of only two teams not to increase ticket prices entering the 2009 season, PNC Park ranks as having the third-cheapest average ticket prices in the league. Attendance throughout the 2008 season averaged 20,113 spectators per game, 28th in the 30-team league. The low attendance has come as a result of the Pirates' play; as of 2010, the team has not had a winning record since 1992. Through 2004, 5% of games played at PNC Park were sold out.


As with its predecessor, PNC Park's concessions service provider is Aramark, while the premium seating areas (The Lexus Club, PBC Level and Suites Level) are serviced by Levy Restaurants. The main eating concourse, known as "Tastes of Pittsburgh", features a wide range of options including traditional ballpark foods, hometown specialties, and more exotic fare like sushi. Pittsburgh's hometown specialties include Primanti Brothers sandwiches, whose signature item consists of meat, cheese, hand-cut French fries, tomatoes, and coleslaw between two slices of Italian bread. Other local eateries offered include Mrs. T's Pierogies, Quaker Steak & Lube, and Benkovitz Seafood. Located behind center field seating is Manny's BBQ, which offers various barbecue meals. It is named for former Pirates' catcher Manny Sanguillén, who has been known to sign autographs for fans waiting in line. For the 2008 season, the Pirates created an all-you-can-eat section in the right field corner. Fans seated in the section are allowed "unlimited hotdogs, hamburgers, nachos, salads, popcorn, peanuts, ice cream and soda" for an entire game. In addition to the food offered, fans are free to bring their own food into the stadium, a rarity among the league's ballparks.

Unlike Three Rivers Stadium, which had a beverage contract with Coca-Cola, PNC Park serves Pepsi products.


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