Name: PNC Park
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Opened: 31 March 2001
Architect: HOK Sport (now Populous)
Cost: $216 Million
Capacity: 37,878 (original)
Surface: Kentucky Bluegrass
PNC Park is in many respects the opposite of Marlins Park -- a beautiful, jewelbox-style ballpark that both presents baseball in a traditional way and also fits beautifully into its city and location.
Leaving Fenway and Wrigley aside -- they are in a class of their own -- PNC Park is, pound-for-pound, right up there with Oracle (AT&T) Park in San Francisco as the most beautiful, perfect place to watch the most beautiful, perfect game. (And, for my money, PNC wins that contest, and twice on Sunday.)
Add on top of all of that the PNC replaced Three Rivers Stadium, the poster child for the big, impersonal, cookie-cutter baseball-and-football stadiums that reigned in the 1970s and 80s, and Pirates fans win hands-down the worst-to-first race in ballpark architecture. (Before you get on my case, Pittsburgh fans, I know how special Three Rivers was to you, and how neither PNC or Heinz Field will ever replace its place in your heart. Like Mets fans with Shea and Reds fans with Riverfront, I can respect your love without understanding it.)
The classic, limestone facade is attractive enough for fans entering the game from behind home plate, but the real signature look is from the south shore of the Allegheny River (see above) or the tastefully named Roberto Clemente Bridge that crosses it. The bridge is closed to cars on game days so that fans can park across the river and walk across the bridge to the game. Taking the L to get to Wrigley might be the best ballpark commute in the world, but this is close.
But the real eye-popper is the view from inside the ballpark.
A panoramic view of the downtown Pittsburgh skyline, with the (Pirates-yellow) Roberto Clemente Bridge in the foreground . . . you cannot beat this view in all of baseball. Pair this with some of the closest, best sightlines in all of baseball and you have a win-win-win. (Or is that win-win-win-win?)
Oh, they also have some of the best food in baseball, so tag another win onto however many we're up to.
In fact, the only thing you can really say is not a guaranteed win at PNC Park is, unfortunately, the team on the field, with just three postseason appearances since 1992 (with two of those being wild-card eliminations and the third a heartbreaking loss to the Cardinals in the 2013 NLDS.) With a bottom-third-ranked farm system, this is unfortunately likely to continue into the foreseeable future. Which is a real shame. Pittsburgh is a great sports town, and we wish them nothing but success. Either way, next time you're anywhere in the vicinity, you owe it to yourself to catch a game at PNC. You can thank me later.
Comment below with your thoughts or memories of PNC Park and one lucky poster will win a PNC Park print from Ballpark Blueprints!
Photo credits David Jugan and Shawn Everhart