Jul 11, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; General view of the ballpark exterior before the Pittsburgh Pirates play against the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
When it comes to sports fans, harmony really isn’t their thing. Getting a large group of passionate people to agree indefinitely on one certain thing can be as possible as the Cardinals finishing last in the National League Central any given year (how do those guys keep winning all the time, anyway?).
But when it comes to the fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and fans of baseball really, there is one opinion that seemingly unifies the entire fan base: PNC Park is an absolute gem of a ballpark, and if it is not the best in America, it’s darn close.
Perhaps the Pirates’ own official PNC Park section on their website says it best:
"“PNC Park, which opened in spring 2001, is an intimate, classic-style ballpark that embraces the progressiveness of Pittsburgh while saluting the spirit of early ballpark originals. Its prime location along the shore of the Allegheny River takes advantage of scenic vistas of the downtown skyline and riverfront, creating an exciting and dramatic urban sports venue.”"
Ask anyone – believe me, I did – and the same comments will surface. The park, which costed a cool 262 million dollars to construct and seats 38,362 fans elicits comments on anything from the picturesque skyline behind the park, to the open and small park feel the large stadium has, to the delicious food available at every level and step of the park. I mean, who doesn’t like French fries and cole slaw on a sandwich? Even outside the park, the atmosphere provides a lot for fans. With Federal Street being closed on game days, fans are able to take a leisurely walk across the Clemente Bridge, showing off the inverse view of PNC Park, with the skyline to your back and the park opening before you, which is just as gorgeous.
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I personally park on Boulevard of the Allies near Point Park University and purposely walk through Market Square on my route to the ballpark. PNC Park wouldn’t be nearly as special were it not for being in America’s most livable city, according to The Economist in 2014. In a place like Pittsburgh, you can walk with a group of strangers wearing the same black and gold colors and feel like you’ve grown up with them. The small town feel that surrounds the city breeds a comfortability that is only natural to compliment baseball, known as the gentleman’s sport.
Inside the stadium, I’ve heard fans marvel at the fact that not one seat in the house featured less than a gorgeous view of the action on the field. In fact, PNC Park is the first two deck designed ballpark in the United States since Milwaukee County Park in 1953. The intimate feel of the large park makes it so that no fan is more than 88 feet from the action at its highest point. It didn’t matter if it was one of my fraternity brothers, a causal acquaintance, or a complete stranger, everyone had these things and more to say about the park.
Heck, on June 13th, against the Philadelphia Phillies, I sat next to a family of Phillies fans who commented on the absolute beauty and comfortability of the ballpark. And while they were from a place that looks down on Pittsburgh as a rival of sorts, they made the same comments.
What really stood out to them was the friendliness that came with taking in a baseball game in Pittsburgh. A big part of the experience at a ballpark is based on the people that are inside it. When it comes to Pittsburgh, their fans are passionate as any others. But when it comes to Pittsburgh Pirates fans, they exude is a small sense of welcoming when it comes to fans of other teams. It is as if they are more than proud to show off the gem of a field that they lay claim to as their home turf. I recently put out a call on social media for folks to share their thoughts on the park. Many chimed in with different tales, different stories, different memories. The one common thread is that PNC Park is a special place to them, in many different ways.
Of course, you don’t have to be a fan to appreciate the best ballpark in baseball.
Next: Pirates employees and local media on PNC Park