Some have feared that the Pittsburgh Pirates will leave Pittsburgh as the Oakland Athetics are leaving Oakland, but that's a fear that needs to be subsided
With the Oakland Athletics planning on moving out of their city, many have questioned the longevity of baseball in Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh Pirates are not the most successful team, both in terms of on-field product and attendance. But comparing the two is like comparing apples to oranges. The two are not the same, even by a mine.
Let’s make one thing clear, PNC Park is not the Oakland Coliseum. PNC is a World Class five-star hotel while OKC is a Motel 6. The Pirates have made multiple renovations to PNC over the last few years. This includes adding a brand new kids’ section, food stands and bars in center field, and a completely renovated jumbotron scoreboard. These are not the kind of renovations that a team with any inkling of plans of moving within the next decade make. If you truly believe Bob Nutting is cheap, then it wouldn't make sense to dump millions of dollars in these renovations just to tear them down in a few years.
In comparison, the Oakland Coliseum hasn’t had any renovations in decades. The sewage systems still have a chance of flooding on rainy days, there’s wild animals nesting in the stadium, the seating behind home plate is rusting out, seats are missing and being replaced with lawn chairs, and the stadium is nearly 60 years old.
PNC Park is still fairly young, all things considered. It’s just 22 years old, which makes it the 12th youngest ballpark in Major League Baseball. Not only is it still a fairly young ballpark, many still consider it one of, if not the best ballpark in America. Sports Illustrated ranked PNC as their #1 ballpark, while NBC ranks it as their 3rd best park, USA Today have it as their 4th best, Fox Sports has it coming in at no. 4 as well, and Bleacher Report no. 3. The only one of those rankings not to have the OKC as the worst stadium is USA Today, which still has it as the second worst in America.
The Pirates also dwarf the A’s in attendance year after year. The Pirates currently average 4,620 more attendees per game than the A’s do. The difference between the A’s and the Pirates is about the same difference between the Pirates and the Baltimore Orioles.
Last season, the Pirates averaged an even greater difference of 5,675 per game compared to the A’s. When the Pirates are good, they bring in fans. From 2013 through 2015, the Pirates averaged over 27,000 attendees per game. Even in 2014, when the A’s sent six players to the All-Star Game, they averaged less than 25K,000 fans per game. Their best record over the last decade (excluding this year and 2020), was 2019 when they won 97 games. Their attendance per game beat the Pirates by just 2,231 fans on average. Keep in mind the Pirates lost 93 games that season, had multiple 5+ game losing streaks, the fan base was at its wits end with the old regime, and had a player who was involved in a massive scandal, and the difference between them and one of the best teams in baseball was less than 2,500 fans.
Even when the Pirates are mediocre and the Athletics are good, the Pirates can hold their own in terms of attendance. On top of that, there’s a much more dedicated fan base in Pittsburgh compared to Oakland, and a stadium that is getting massive renovations over the last few years, and it’s clear the Pirates are staying in Pittsburgh. Bob Nutting may be cheap, but compared to the Oakland Athletics, he is Andrew Carnegie.