June 11, 2008
When it comes to the baseball standings, the Pirates know a thing or two about finishing last.
Yet when it comes to discussing the most beautiful ballparks in America, Pittsburgh reverses roles and almost always hovers near the top of the discussion with its staggeringly cool PNC Park.
Opened in 2001, the breathtaking jewelry box located on the north shore of the Allegheny River makes Pittsburgh a must-visit on any baseball pilgrimage — even if the team that plays there usually isn't very good. With views that include the did-you-know-Pittsburgh-was-that-pretty skyline and the fan-delivering Roberto Clemente bridge, PNC Park is a retro park that did everything right.
What follows below is PNC receiving the honor of being the first installment of Big League Stew's Big Ballpark Review, the summer series that aims to take input from you, the fans, and package it into a post that will give even a first-time visitor the quintessential hometown experience.
One thing I've heard about Pittsburgh? Those Primanti Bros. sandwiches are worth a try.
(To submit tips on your home ballpark, e-mail 'Duk at firstname.lastname@example.org. Any and all insight and info is greatly appreciated.)
Facts and figures (more at Ballparks.com)
Address: 115 Federal Street Pittsburgh, PA 15212 (412) 323-5000
Cost: $262 million
Dimensions: Left field foul pole: 325 feet; LF power alley: 386 feet; left-center: 389 feet; deep left-center field: 410 feet; center field: 399 feet; RF power alley: 375 feet; right field foul pole: 320 feet; backstop: 52 feet.
Biggest moment: Texas' Michael Young hits 2-out, 2-run triple for a 3-2 AL win in '06 All-Star Game.
Quick fact: The highest upper deck seat at PNC Park is still just 88 feet from field level.
* * *How to get there
"Park in the garage on Stanwix Street and walk across the Roberto Clemente bridge and just take it all in. It's the best feeling. Get there early enough and walk down the North Shore to Heinz Field and you can walk right up to the south endzone and have a look in." — Aaron Newquist, Ft. Worth, Texas (formerly of Pittsburgh)
"If you don't want to pay a high price to park, get your walking shoes on. They do close off the Roberto Clemente bridge next to the stadium for pedestrians and parking on the other side is cheaper." — John Koval
"In Station Square, the Gateway Clipper fleet runs shuttles across from the mouth of the Ohio river and up the Allegheny to PNC's doorstep." — Matty Watkins, Atlanta, Ga. (formerly of Pittsburgh)
Before and after the game
"I'm sure everyone will tell you to check out the statues of Willie Stargell and Roberto Clemente, but walk all the way around the park and see the Honus Wagner statue. It's 53 years old and it made it's way from Forbes Field to Three Rivers to PNC. As much as everyone loves the Roberto and Pops statues, the Wagner one has always been my favorite — maybe because it's the one that's always been there." — Patrick Lackey, Where Have You Gone Andy Van Slyke?
"If you're looking for some pre-game activities, visiting the Pittsburgh Sports Museum is a great way to pass the time." — Laura Biery, Pittsburgh
"I would probably start over in the Strip District, across the Allegheny River from PNC. I know a lot of people associate the Strip with a Primanti Brothers visit (where they put the fried egg, cole slaw and the fries on the sandwich). Don't get me wrong, I love a Primanti's as much as any ex-pat Pittsburgher. But when I'm in town, I like to try to grab a whole fish sandwich at Wholey's Fish Market in the Strip. It's awesome. They put a huge cajun-fried fish on a regular hamburger bun. You stand right on there on Penn Avenue and eat it as the cars whiz by. It's just one of those tastes that you're not going to get anywhere else in the city." — Chris Krug, Crystal Lake, Ill.
"Any bar will do. You will need to be intoxicated to sit through a game. If you don't drink enough before the game the best spot to hit after the game is one's own face as punishment for purchasing a Pirates ticket." — Ryan Williams, formerly of Jeannette, Pa.
* * *
What to eat
"You HAVE to get a Primanti's Sandwich, at Primanti's Sandwich Co. There's no way around that. That sandwich IS Pittsburgh — and top it all off with an ice cold Iron City.
"Make a trip to one of the Quaker Steak & Lube stands. Some of the best chicken wings I've ever had in my life." — M.W.
"As for in-park food and stuff, everyone will say Primanti's and of course you can't go wrong there, but do yourself a favor and don't give in to the temptation to drink an Iron City or an IC Light just because you're in the 'Burgh. Instead, go to either the beer place in the little corner with everything named after Willie Stargell (I think it's call Pup 475) or "Beers of the 'Burgh" just past Primantis as you head towards the outfield and get either a Penn Gold or a Penn Pilsner, beers from an awesome local microbrewery." — P.L.
"I love Pittsburgh, but Iron CIty Beer must be the swill dripping out of garbage trucks. Go with Yuengling (pronounced "ying-ling") every time. Don't even think about Rolling Rock." — A.N.
Where to sit
"The views from the lower boxes are incredible. In a lot of ways, it's like the Wrigley experience without all of the obstructions and shadows." — C.K.
"Anywhere down the third base line. It has the best view of the field, jumbotron, and the city. It's
priceless. If you want an even better view, upper deck is the way to go and you can see the city easily anywhere from behind home plate all the way over to left field. Plenty of pricing options on how you want to go." — M.W.
"Every seat is a great seat. Lots of ballparks claim that, but PNC delivers. I've sat in every seat level and never had a bad view of the game. The Pittsburgh city skyline adds to the beauty of the park. There are lots of deals to be found and new this year is an all-you-can-eat section for $35 per ticket purchased in advance." — L.B.
"Any of the 30,000 available seats will do. Hell, I had my own section once." — R.W.
"Hands down, what makes PNC Park the best is the people. Pittsburghers are about as friendly as they come. Everyone from the ushers and concession stand employees to the couple sitting beside you who may have just shown up on the kiss cam. You'll feel welcomed and right at home. I must warn you though, once you've experienced baseball Pittsburgh style, you'll be ruined for every other venue!" — L.B.
"They should bring back buck night. That would get people to the park. There are not any strip clubs within walking distance either." — J.K.
"I'd recommend trying to find T.C. the vendor (he's usually in the seats between 1st and 3rd base on the lower level) and he's a bit of Pittsburgh icon, as far as vendors go." — P.L.
"After the game the walk back to your hotel is even more wonderful as you keep glancing back over your shoulder to see the stadium lights reflecting on the river. Truly beautiful." — Bret Marnell, San Diego, Calif.
"They may not house a good team, but there's always a good seat available. Not a lot of people have been there because of the fact they don't hold a good team, but it's so underrated. It's by far the best park in the nation." — M.W.
Have an insider's tip for PNC Park that you didn't see listed here? E-mail it with your name and home town to 'Duk at email@example.com for possible inclusion in the post. Big League Stew's Big Ballpark Review will run all summer and feature all 30 MLB ballparks. We welcome reviews for any ballpark. To do so, visit this post for submission guidelines.
Coming Friday: Cleveland's Progressive Field (a.k.a. "The Jake") (Send your tips!)