I recently had the opportunity to visit my tenth Major League Baseball stadium, PNC Park in Pittsburgh. A milestone like your tenth ballpark deserves to be a memorable visit, and mine definitely was!
You’ve probably heard how beautiful and wonderful PNC Park is, and I am here to tell you that all the hype is true!
Now, obviously the results on the field were not what I was looking for, but my trip to PNC Park was one that I will look back on fondly, and with a smile. The ballpark has a list of positives almost as long as the Allegheny River with just a few negatives.
By the time this trip became a reality, tickets at the level I wanted were no longer available in pairs so I took to Stub Hub. I ended up paying around $52/ticket to sit in section 113. The face value price was $38. Either price is a bargain compared to what I would have paid to sit in a similar seat at most ballparks. My seat provided a great view of the Clemente Bridge and downtown Pittsburgh, which was a must for my first trip to PNC Park.
Ticket tip: The ballpark tour guide said that the bleacher seats are not released until 10 days before a game so if you prefer that experience that is something to keep in mind.
This was probably the only the only negative on this trip, besides the on the field results. Parking was hard to find. I wasn’t sure if it was our mid-day arrival that contributed to our long search for parking, but our tour guide did say that parking is terrible. Our hotel didn’t have a corresponding garage and that is the case for most of the hotels. A helpful hint when looking for a parking garage is that many have below ground entrances. Another helpful hint is that there is an app for parking in Pittsburgh. We used it and it was somewhat helpful.
If you are not staying within walking distance to the park, I would suggest using one of the many public transportation options.
Walking To and Entering the Stadium
Our hotel was across the river from PNC Park so our first view of PNC Park was this.
For me, there is nothing like the first glimpse of a ballpark and I thought this view was absolutely amazing. I love that you can see into the stadium. My friend and I stopped for our photo opportunities and then continued on towards PNC Park. Of course to cross the river we had to walk across the Clemente Bridge. I love that they shut it down to traffic so you can walk right down the middle of the bridge. I could feel the excitement building for the game with each step I took on the bridge.
We arrived at the Center Field Gate just over an hour before the first game was supposed to start and the gates hadn’t opened. Normally the gates open an hour and a half before so I was surprised to see the long lines. We walked around the outside of the stadium so that I could explore and to look for a shorter line. My first impressions of the surrounding area was that it was very clean. There were some bars and restaurants across the street. My friend and I eventually worked our way to the Home Plate Rotunda entrance.
I planned my food before arriving. While exploring the At The Ballpark app I decided to have a jalapeno cheddar dog. It was a footlong hot dog topped with cheese sauce, jalapenos, and Fritos. It was delicious and extremely messy! My friend had pierogies and buffalo wings. She enjoyed both. I was told to try Primanti Brother’s, a Pittsburgh staple that is available at PNC, but I’m not very adventuresome when it comes to food so I didn’t try it. There was also a gluten free and vegetarian stand available. For dessert, I had a helmet sundae (Ben and Jerry’s ice cream flavors are available) and my friend had frozen yogurt (available in vanilla or chocolate with toppings available). A feature at the concessions that I hadn’t seen before was a sticker on the souvenir cup good for a free refill.
The atmosphere was what I would expect from a series with two contending teams. When the first game started the stadium obviously wasn’t full, but those fans that were there were into the game from the beginning — it helps when your center fielder robs a would-be two-run double in the top of the first and then the team scores in the bottom of the inning.
By the end of the first game the park had filled in and the atmosphere was electric. We all know what happened in the bottom of the eleventh inning and the celebration by Pirates fans began.
Between games I went for a walk to explore the rest of the stadium and to get some ice cream. On the concourse fans were cheering and celebrating. I saw fans with flags running around and celebrating the team moving into first place. The celebration continued into and through the second game of the doubleheader.
Be sure to stay in your seat after the fifth inning for the pierogi race. The race starts on the third base side and ends in the right field corner.
Overall Experience As a Visiting Fan
This wasn’t the first road trip I have ever made so I’ve had a variety of experiences as a visiting fan. There are stadiums that I have no desire to go back to because of how I was treated by the home fans and there are stadiums that I would go back to in a heartbeat. PNC Park falls into the “go back in a heartbeat” category.
Overall, Pirates fans were great! Whether it was offering to take my picture or pointing out different features of the ballpark, they were friendly and treated all fans with respect. I had some great conversations with different groups of Pirates fans as we left following the two games. Even though the Cardinals had just lost their fifth and sixth games in a row (and also my fifth and sixth losses of the season) I left PNC with somewhat of a smile on my face because of the stadium and its home fans.
There is no public wifi at PNC Park. There was a network that was open, but it required a username and password so I don’t think it’s a public network. I really could have used wifi as my phone reception was terrible during the game. My friend (US Cellular) had better luck than I did (Verizon).
As a visitor to a new ballpark I like to take the ballpark tour so before leaving that’s what my friend and I did before leaving. I learned a lot about the Pirates, including how they got their name and how they decided where to put the Roberto Clemente statue. Our tour took us to the press box, club level, a suite, the batting cage (this was a first for me), the dugout, and on the field. The clubhouse was closed due to the continuing home stand, but we were shown a brief video that took us inside the clubhouse.
If you have the opportunity to get to PNC Park, I cannot recommend it enough! The views and the people make it the jewel that it is.