In the beginning of July, I was lucky enough to get to watch a Pirates game with a sold-out crowd in PNC Park. Since the Brewers will be in Pittsburgh this week, I thought this would be a good time to share my experience with all of you.
Though my relatives in Pittsburgh advised against it because of the traffic jams we would sit in after the game, my family decided to park on the "other side of the river" and walk across the Roberto Clemente Bridge to get into the stadium. (For those unaware, PNC Park is located on the Allegheny River and just to the east of the point where the Allegheny River meets the Ohio River and the Monongahela River.) Walking across the Allegheny River allows you to take in the stadium while also seeing the wonderful contrast of the Pittsburgh skyline with the greenery that can be found on the river. If you would ever go to PNC Park, I would definitely suggest it.
Before the game, we decided to take a lap around the outside of the stadium to take a look at the statues that adorn each entrance to the stadium. Starting in the left field corner, at the end of the bridge named after him, you will find Roberto Clemente.
Taking a walk on the riverfront toward centerfield will lead you to a statue of Bill Mazeroski. Though best known for hitting the home run that ended the 1960 World Series, I would argue everyone in Pittsburgh is much prouder of the defense he played at second base. It was hard to bring up "Maz" to anyone in Pittsburgh and not hear about how well he picked it at second base.
Continuing around the stadium, you will find a statue of J.P. "Honus" Wagner on the first base line. The statue in front of the stadium has actually now been at three different stadiums. It was originally put up at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, then moved to Three Rivers Stadium, and finally moved once Three Rivers was demolished and PNC Park was built. Also, I had never seen him called J.P. Wagner before, so I asked my uncle-in-law (…if that’s a thing. I’m pretty sure it’s not.) what J.P. stood for and he informed me that it stood for "Johannes Peter", which struck me as unusual because I would have figured if people would have called him something for short it would have been John or Hans or J.P.
The final statue you will find outside of PNC Park is a behemoth statue of Willie Stargell on the third base side of the stadium. This is the entrance we eventually decided to use to enter the stadium.
Upon entering the stadium, we immediately met a wall of people. I assumed that this was just a problem because it was shortly before the first pitch and the game was sold out because the Phillies were in town. So, I fought the human wall of traffic and found my seat on the third base line. As I sat down with 30 minutes to first pitch, I decided the best time to get food would be before the game began.
This was a good decision. Though I had to wait a little while longer than I would have liked because I was a sucker and buying food before the game started, I was treated to a monster burger with a side of kettle cooked potato chips for $9.25 and a souvenir soda for $8. For $9.25 at a major league stadium, the quality of the burger and amount of food I received was phenomenal. I didn’t have any strong feelings towards the $8 souvenir Andrew McCutchen cup until I saw a free refill sticker on the cup! My mind was blown! A souvenir cup and two monstrous sodas for $8! Pretty good stuff.
Now on to the actual in-game experience. I sat on the first level of the stadium and was about even with third base. My view of the game was great. I could see just about the entire field of play except a little section of the left field corner, but ultimately the tickets I purchased were a mistake.
If I was given the chance to go back in time and purchase different tickets for that game, I would have bought them on the second level behind home plate or maybe shaded a bit to the third base side. If I was a Pirates fan, I would have loved my actual seats on the first level, but since I was a casual fan only at the game to experience the stadium, seats on the second level would have given me the most picturesque views of the game.
From my seats on the first level, I wasn’t really able to see any of the rivers or any of the surrounding scenery, which was somewhat disappointing because in my mind before the game all I could think of was the picture that every media person has taken from the press box in Pittsburgh, which is just gorgeous. I should have known better to expect that in my seat, but I didn’t and started with my expectations much too high.
I really enjoyed the video board at the stadium. It was relatively large and bright and showed all of the relevant information you needed, as well as tons of replays. At times, the board even showed multiple replays of close plays on the basepaths or great plays made in the field. This was a welcome surprise that I haven’t seen in a majority of stadiums.
Another thing that intrigued me was the ribbon boards around the stadium displaying the vertical movement and horizontal movement of each pitch along with the pitch speed. I had never seen something like that before in a stadium and I was confused how they were actually measuring each of those things.
With little interest in the game on the field and a full bladder (stupid souvenir soda AND free refill!), I decided to take a walk around the stadium in the fifth inning and check out some of the rest of the stadium.
The first thing I realized on my tour of the stadium was the cramped quarters of the first level concourse. Though I had originally blamed it on the pregame traffic of a sellout against the Phillies, I quickly realized the oversight I had made.
PNC Park, like Target Field in Minnesota, only has two levels. With two levels instead of three or even four in some stadiums, a majority of the seats at PNC Park were located on the first level, but the concourses were not given extra width. In fact, I would tend to believe the first and second level concourses at Miller Park are both wider than the first level concourse at PNC Park even though it has significantly more foot traffic.
One of the coolest features of the stadium was the rotunda in left field. Right behind the left field foul pole, there is a open concrete ramp that spins around 4 or 5 times until having an open air top. This rotunda had some incredible views of the river and stadium in general. It didn’t really seem to be policed and I actually saw a few families sitting on a blanket up against the railing. Pretty neat little place to watch a game on a standing room only ticket.
As I walked around, I was disappointed to have very few vantage points to watch the game from the concourse as I walked around the stadium. It seemed like no matter where I walked, I either saw a wall or a concession stand or souvenir stand or something to block my view. One of my favorite things about Miller Park is being able to see the game from most parts of the concourse on the first or second level and I didn’t think I had those same vantage points in Pittsburgh.
With all that being said, I really enjoyed PNC Park. I thought the views of the field from the actual seats throughout the stadium were very good. I can’t really think of any seat I found that had an interrupted sightline to the plate beside the standing room only areas on the rotunda. From foul pole to foul pole, the views of the game play were fantastic, as well as the views of the Pittsburgh skyline.
It also didn’t hurt that the Pirates were in first place in the NL Central and the rival Phillies were in town. Being a part of a crowd that is fully invested in a game always helps make an experience feel that much more special and that was certainly the case that night in Pittsburgh. The great stadium as well as the energized crowd will help me remember my visit to PNC Park fondly.