Friday, August 15, 2014
The PNC Park Experience
I spent the last few days in Pittsburgh where I visited PNC Park for the first time. It was a 10-hour road trip, so I was hoping it would be worth the trouble. The drive itself actually wasn't too bad. For someone who is conditioned to the crazy Boston-area traffic, driving west is always a relief. The lack of traffic made the huge state of Pennsylvania seem small relative to tiny Massachusetts and Connecticut.
The city of Pittsburgh (named the city of bridges for good reason!) was nice, better than expected. Despite living in congested eastern Massachusetts and having worked in Boston for eleven years, I prefer smaller towns and sometimes find large cities to be intimidating. Pittsburgh felt comfortable though - not crowded or noisy, not a lot of obvious poverty; yet definitely not yuppy and artificial either.
Much like Boston, Pittsburgh is good for walking. Most things you'd want to see were within reasonable walking distance of each other. As a bonus, I spent several hours exploring Pittsburgh's extensive system of bike paths mostly along the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers.
Along with thousands of other fans, I approached PNC Park via the Roberto Clemente Bridge which is closed to traffic immediately before and after games. It's quite a sight seeing masses of fans cross the bridge with no automobiles in sight, especially after the game with everyone leaving the park and crossing at the same time. It's not quite like the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge during the New York marathon, but still impressive.
The only negative thing I'm going to write about here is ballpark security, but that's something that is getting bad at all parks. It felt almost like going through an airport - pockets emptied and arms up. At least they didn't make us take off our shoes. It wasn't awful but it slows things down unnecessarily and makes a fun event seem briefly intimidating. I don't think it makes us any safer either. I'm not quite sure why Americans have allowed security to reach this point with so little complaint...At least we were rewarded with a Honus Wagner bobble head.
I got great seats on the first base side for about half the price I would pay at Fenway Park. I entered the park through the wrong gate and had to walk a long way before I reached my seat but that gave me a chance to view a lot of different areas and it seemed like the view of the field would be good from any section.
PNC Park was quite similar to Comerica Park in terms of prices, field views and comfort which are good at both venues. PNC gets the edge due to less obtrusive advertising and the back drop of the Allegheny River and Clemente Bridge.
I was pleasantly surprised at how many Tiger fans were in attendance - lots of Tigers caps and Cabrera and Verlander shirts and even an Andy Dirks shirt. I saw no evidence of any animosity between Tigers and Pirates fans, just chants of "Let's Go Bucs" erupting any time Tigers fans tried to get a "Let's go Tigers clap clap clap clap clap" thing going.
You can't tell much from one game, but the fans seemed to be both enthusiastic and knowledgeable based on their reactions to the game. They knew when to cheer and didn't go nuts thinking every fly ball would be a home run. That probably goes with the territory of a team which has had little recent success, but is on the verge of better things, maybe as early as this fall. Once they've made the playoffs a few times, I could see things changing as more fans join the band wagon.
So, the long trip was worth it and PNC is a park I'd recommend to all fans. I plan on making the journey again in the future.