Pittsburgh

My Favorite Ballpark

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is commonly known as the Steel City. Located where three major rivers meet, its citizens are proud of their city. They are especially proud of their sport teams, which have brought a number of championships to the city. These include the NFL’s Steelers, the NHL’s Penguins, and the oldest pro sports team, MLB’s Pirates.

Catch a good glimpse of the Pittsburgh skyline.

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The Pirates have had their share of success over the year, winning 5 World Series. They have also had more than their fair share of rough years, especially in the last two decades. Despite the recent on field struggles, Pirates fans still have plenty of reason to go out to the ballgame. This is mostly thanks to their phenomenal home, PNC Park.

PNC Park opened in 2001, after the Pirates had spent the last 30 years sharing the concrete cookie cutter, Three Rivers Stadium, with the Steelers. Ever since PNC Park opened, it has been consistently rated as one of the best ballparks in the Major Leagues. PNC Park is one of the smaller venues in baseball which makes the experience there more intimate than most stadiums. It also has on average some of the cheapest ticket prices but don’t let that deter you. You will still get an incredible experience, which I will delve into here in a little bit. Game day parking is also cheaper on average, too. Just make sure you know how to navigate what can be a confusing freeway system around downtown Pittsburgh.

I have been to PNC Park a total of 5 times. Through 2017, it is my third most visited ballpark behind Progressive Field and Great American Ballpark. The last three years, I have visited PNC Park. Making the trip twice in a year for the first time in 2017. My first trip to PNC Park was in 2008. I was able to convince my dad to take the three hour trip for a Sunday afternoon game with one his friends from work. The previous couple of years, we had made the trek once a summer to Cincinnati. This was back when I was only able to go to a few MLB games a summer. So going to a stadium that was not Cleveland or Cincinnati was a pretty big deal to me. I do not remember a great deal about my first trip to PNC, but I remember enough to know I enjoyed the park. Oh and the Pirates lost to the Tampa Bay Rays that afternoon. Fun fact: this was Tampa Bay’s first year as the “Rays”, having shortened it from “Devil Rays”.

It was during my first “ballpark tour” that I really fell in love with PNC Park and it became my favorite park. In August 2015, a week’s vacation saw my friend Logan and I hit up Washington, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland (Philadelphia was originally in the plans but was scrapped, so Gettysburg replaced Philly. Gettysburg is a must visit, too). Shoutout to Logan, a non baseball fan, for putting up with four baseball games in one week. He is not like me, who can be at a game every night and not complain. The game we went to was on a spectacular Friday night. Our seats were on the first base side in the upper deck, closer to the foul pole. To put it simply, my oh my, what a view!

The Allegheny River running behind PNC Park with the Roberto Clemente bridge crossing in front.

Yes, what a dynamite view. From where we sat, you can turn to your right and see the downtown Pittsburgh skyline. A downtown skyline is the perfect backdrop for a ballpark, and Pittsburgh may have the best one. PNC Park and downtown Pittsburgh are separated by the Allegheny River, which just adds to the backdrop with the bridges that cross over the Allegheny. The Sixth Street Bridge (the bridge closest to the ballpark) was renamed the Roberto Clemente Bridge in honor of the Pirates legend. This bridge is closed for Pirates home games so fans who park in downtown can walk across the bridge to and from the game. All of this gives fans a breathtaking view sure to take your breath away the first time you visit PNC Park.

The view from the Roberto Clemente Bridge, overlooking the Allegheny River.

Before the game, be sure to walk on the walkway out behind right field outside of the stadium. This is an excellent place to just do a little strolling before entering the ballpark. I am going to give you some advice that I have not taken myself. If you are able to, go to Pittsburgh for a night game. I will explain why. There is high boat activity in the Allegheny during the summer time. The best kind of boating being kayaking. So get to Pittsburgh early in the day, find a place to park, and rent a kayak. Then go see the game. Just bring plenty of sunscreen if you go in the middle of the summer. You don’t want to be red and in pain while you try to enjoy the game.

PNC Park has plenty of food options at reasonable prices to enjoy. Before I go any further with the food though, just avoid Primanti Bro’s. We went to this place before the game because we heard the hype. It was very meh. That being said, you will find plenty of food options to appease your appetite. My personal favorite there is the Quaker Stake and Lube concession stand. I don’t know why, but whatever, they have a good food. The main food concourse is called “Tastes of Pittsburgh”. Here you will find your traditional ballpark foods, hometown specials, and the fancier food. I will give you a suggestion on the drinks that you need to take, too. Get a souvenir cup. They offer one refill the day of game. Not every place does this, so you’re welcome. Another money saving tip: fans are free to bring their own food in as well.

Back to the ballpark. Hopefully by now, you have come to realize that PNC Park is a true baseball gem and if you have not gone yet, you are missing out. The Pirates aren’t even my favorite team, but if I lived in Pittsburgh, I would be going to games often. It’s intimacy combines the best of ballparks from yesteryear like Forbes Field and the latest in modern day amenities. You won’t find a bad seat, either. PNC Park was designed with every seat facing towards home plate so all fans could get the best experience possible. With PNC Park being one of the smaller venues in MLB, fans in the upper deck feel closer to the action than they would sitting in the upper deck of other parks.

PNC Park also proved it can be one of the best atmospheres in baseball when the Pirates had a brief run of success and hosted the National League Wild Card game every year from 2013-2015. Unfortunately for Pirates fans, they only saw their team win in 2013. Counting wild card games, PNC Park has only seen five postseason games in its lifetime. That just feels like too low of a number for such a spectacular place to take a game in.

So what are you waiting on? Stop being a pirate who doesn’t do anything and get yourself to the Steel City to take in one of the best ballparks MLB has to offer. Don’t just stay at home and lie around (appreciate my Veggietales references, thank you. I put over 1200 words in this thing). If you have already been there, go again! I know I’ll be returning to PNC Park, real soon.

-Evan Lewis