The Pittsburgh Pirates *will not* become the Oakland Athletics, and will not be leaving Pittsburgh any time soon
There’s been rising frustrations with the Pittsburgh Pirates fan base, and for a good reason. The team has not done much this off-season to inspire much confidence. Of course, there is still a lot of time left, but I don’t blame someone for being frustrated by the off-season thus far. But tensions have gotten so high that some fans are afraid of the possibility of the Pirates ending up like the Oakland Athletics, moving out of Pittsburgh entirely.
This mainly stems from the fact that the ownership is frustrating for the fans, and the fact the lease for PNC will be up by 2030. But fan frustration is looking at one part of the problem, and completely ignoring another factor that is the main reason the A’s are moving out of Oakland, while the Pirates will likely stay in Pittsburgh for the long haul.
Compare the disrepair that Oakland Coliseum is in compared to PNC Park. The Athletics need a new stadium. The threat of sewage leaks when it rains is the least of Oakland’s problems. Seats are missing, multiple animal and insect infestations, lights threaten to go out if there is a storm mid-game, and multiple other issues. The seats behind home plate, what some may consider the best seats in the house for any stadium, are so rusted out that if you fell in this area, you may need a tetanus shot. The last time OKC was renovated was in 1995, nearly 30 years ago.
PNC is a beautiful stadium and a consensus top-three park in baseball, and that's only part of the answer. Nutting also recently invested about $11 million into renovations into PNC, adding about 8400 square feet of new area to the park just last year in 2022 and the new scoreboard that was implemented before the 2023 season cost another $5.6 million. The new team store is amazing, holding much more than the old team store. There’s a new bar in center field, the jumbotron looks great, and there is a new kids' area, along with multiple new bars and concessions.
Here’s the big difference many don’t consider: John Fisher was too cheap to renovate OKC, or build a new stadium when it was a hostile environment. PNC could be the next stadium that stands for 100+ years (whether or not it keeps the name PNC is another story), and Nutting has shown a willingness to make the park better, improving the fan experience, unlike Fisher, who hasn’t put in money to renovate his stadium since the mid-90s. PNC isn’t going to get demolished, left abandoned, or repurposed after only 30 years of use, and it’s still receiving renovations in the last decade or less.
One of my closest friends from college is from California, and he’s been able to go to multiple games, both in Oakland and Pittsburgh. He is a San Francisco Giants fan, so he has little bias toward either team. Here’s what he had to say about Oakland:
“As far as atmosphere, Oakland is a graveyard for baseball. The only time that stadium (OKC) feels like a real place is when it’s filled with Giants, Angels, or Yankees fans. Even when empty, you still feel like the fans at PNC care about the team and want to see them succeed. Oakland just got even worse over the last few years because everyone knew they were on the way out. Didn’t used to be like that. But also Oakland is the worst place to watch a baseball game in the league and it’s not even close. The coliseum is a concrete circle of sadness.”
When asked about how Oakland Coliseum and the A’s compare to PNC Park and the Pirates, this is what he had to say on the matter:
"PNC even when empty is a lot more lively. Of course in terms of the park itself, PNC, is arguably the best in the league. Definitely top 3 at worst in my opinion. Good thing with the Pirates is at least you guys have some bright spots to look forward to when going to the yard.”
Even if you want to consider the fan numbers, the Pirates are leagues above the A’s. When Oakland fans had a reverse boycott, nearly 28,000 fans showed up. The Pirates averaged just over 20K fans per game. I understand the situation the A’s are in is going to cause many fans to turn away from them, regardless of the reverse boycott or not, but the Pirates still had more people show up to games than two playoff teams, both Florida teams.
Look, I know that it’s frustrating to be a Pirates fan right now, but to think the Pirates are going to become the next Oakland Athletics is not realistic. There’s a major difference in ownership and venue. Bob Nutting isn’t Andrew Carnegie, but he might as well be if you compare him to John Fisher. The A's have played in a "concrete circle of sadness" that hasn't had any TLC since 1995. The Pirates play in one of the best venues in America, and a park that has recieved over $16 million in renovation the last two years.