Fun Facts About Pittsburgh's Ball Parks

Last Updated 22 July 2003

Here is a quick index to this page:


Recreation Park: 1887-1890

This was the official National League park for the new Pittsburgh team in 1887. The old American Association Alleghenies played here prior to the team's entrance to the National League.

First Game: April 30, 1887
The Pittsburgh Alleghenies won their first game in the NL, defeating Chicago 6-2 at Recreation Park.

The capacity of this park was 17,000. The smallest crowd was 6 paid, with 17 total on April 23, 1890 vs Cleveland. The American Association Alleghenies had played in some early versions of Exposition Park (see below), but because of the flooding problems closer to the river, Recreation Park was built several blocks north of where Three Rivers Stadium now stands. The park was on a block surrounded by Galveston Street to the south (right field line), North Avenue to the north (beyond left field), and the Pittsburgh, Ft. Wayne and Chicago Railroad tracks to the northeast (beyond center field), near Grant and Pennsylvania Avenues. There is nothing there today that would indicate that any sort of ballpark was ever there; it is kind of a factory/warehouse area now.

Most notable event:

"In 1887, the Alleghenies catcher Fred Carroll had a pet monkey which accompanied him everywhere. When the pet died, he was buried with honors during a pre-game ceremony, directly beneath home plate." (Green Cathedrals, p 215)

I am looking for the dimensions of this park (the playing field); if you can help, please e-mail me. Also, any sketches or photos would be a nice addition here.


Exposition Park: 1891-1909

This old ball park was on the city's north side, very near the current site of Three Rivers Stadium. The Home Plate location was in the Three Rivers Stadium parking lot mid-way between Gate B and C and the Clark Bar & Grill. It was on the river side of the General Robinson Street extension, and on the stadium side of the Fort Duquesne Bridge. Local SABR members surveyed the site and, at one time, marked the approximate home plate location with white paint (in the shape of a home plate). In fact, all the base locations are marked with white paint. Home plate was in a parking space, and many times, was covered with a parked car. The other bases were easily seen even when the lot was in use. In September 1998, a state-sponsored historical marker commemorating the first modern World Series was dedicated on the old ballpark site. The plaque was put into storage when Three Rivers Stadium was imploded in 2001. Stay tuned here for future developments.

The site was actually the home to three versions of Exposition Park: the lower field (1882), the upper field (1883), and Exposition Park III (1890). In 1875, the first Allegheny Exposition was held in a hall on the flats along the north shore of the Allegheny River. The Exposition's goals were to promote Pittsburgh, display local products, and to provide some entertainment. In addition to the hall, there was some open space where horse races, circuses, and concerts were held. The American Association Alleghenies played baseball games here, in these open fields, starting in 1882. The Upper Field was hastily created when the lower field (closer to the river) flooded in 1883. Tired of the ballfields on the flood plain, the Alleghenies moved to higher ground at Recreation Park in 1884 (see above). The exhibit halls on this Exposition Park site burned down in 1883 and were later rebuilt across the river on the Point. With the North Side site now largely unoccupied, the new Players League built Exposition Park III very near the current site of Three Rivers Stadium in 1890. The Player's League folded after just one season, and the National League Pirates moved into Expo III in 1891.

Most notable events:
Exposition Park was the National League host for the first World Series in 1903.

The Allegheny River flooded on the 4th of July 1902; more than a foot of water covered large parts of the outfield. It was the perfect time for a double header as the Bucs took on Brooklyn. A special ground rule was created: all outfield hits into the water were singles. The Buccos swept the double header.

Capacity: 16,000
Dimensions:

Left Field: 400 feet
Center Field: 450 feet
Right Field: 400 feet

Read "Tales of the Tape" for a description of the longest ball hit in this ballpark.

Here is a picture of Exposition Park. (28k) It was noted for its twin spires behind homeplate on the roof of the grandstand. The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad came to own the site. It was used briefly by the Federal League in 1914-1915, but thereafter, it was abandoned and gradually disappeared. By the mid-'20s, the railyard had grown to cover pretty much all of what had been the ballpark.

A special thanks to Denis Repp (splinter@usaor.net) for his contribution to the sections on Exposition Park and Recreation Park. Denis sent me a follow-up note of interest. At the end of the inaugural 1883 season at Expo II, the American Association Allegheny ball club and the landlord of the exhibition grounds, the Exhibition Society, squabbled over $250 in rent, countered by a $3,000 threatened lawsuit for fence/grounds repairs as well as extra police security to protect two openings the Exhibition Society left in the Grounds (fencing I assume). On opening day, the Exhibition Society (allegedly) took control of the entrance gates from the ball club, and doubled the normal 25 cent admission and turned away those who showed up with just a quarter. The ball club and the landlord also bickered over control of various gates, with the landlord eventually declaring the lease "null and void" and claiming the club "couldn't lease the ground for any amount of money." The squabble was overcome by events when the Exposition Grounds buildings were destroyed by fire in the off season. The Alleghenys were offered a new park near the modern-day Strip District, but club ended up at Recreation Park for the 1884 season.
(Source: Pittsburgh Post, 1883)

Exposition Park at the Ballparks web site.


Forbes Field: 1909-1970

A classic Major League Baseball Park, Forbes Field was named for General John Forbes, a British general who, during the French and Indian War (1758), captured Fort Duquesne and renamed it Fort Pitt. The park was located in the Oakland district of Pittsburgh, with home plate located off of Sennott and Bouquet Streets. The area surrounding the Park was originally part of Schenley Farms; the site was previously used as a hot house, livery stable and as land for grazing cows.

Forbes Field provided a picturesque setting that was unique to Major League Baseball. The ballpark stood at the entrance to the city's Schenley Park. Mary Schenley was heir to her father's Oakland estate. She left the United States in 1840 to live in England and France with her husband, a British officer. In 1889, she donated 300 acres of her estate to the city to use as a public park. In 1890, Andrew Carnegie built his Institute which now includes a library, museum, and concert hall in Oakland. Soon other investors such as Phipps, Heinz, Frick, and Mellon moved into the Oakland area. Barney Dreyfuss thought that this new, cultural area of the city would be the perfect location for his new ball park, yet many people ridiculed Dreyfus saying that the ballpark would be too far away from downtown businessmen. Many people referred to the new park as "Dreyfuss' Folly". Forbes Field survived far longer than many of her critics thought she would. She opened her doors during the 1909 season that saw the Pirates become crowned as World Champions. Sixty-one years later, she closed her gates as the Pirates were driving towards their first Eastern Division flag in 1970. Lady Forbes had plenty of baseball tales to tell about her days in the sun.

There were several Major League "firsts" and interesting events at the ballpark. Forbes Field was the National League's first ballpark constructed of concrete and steel. The first game at Forbes Field was on June 30, 1909. The Bucs lost to the Chicago Cubs 3-2. On July 17, 1914, Rube Marquard of the Giants beat Babe Adams of the Pirates 3-1, in a 21-inning game with both pitchers going the distance. Forbes Field was the host for the last Triple Header in the Major Leagues (October 2, 1920 vs Cincinnati). In the 1920's, cars were repaired and sold beneath the left field bleachers. The first radio broadcast of a major league baseball game took place from Forbes in 1921. During the 1938 season, when it appeared that the Bucs might make a run for the pennant, Forbes Field had a set of third deck seats installed. The "Crow's Nest" could be reached by an elevator - the first elevator in the Major Leagues. The Bucs were also the first team to install green foam rubber crash pads on the their outfield wall. Forbes Field hosted the World Series four times (1909, 1925, 1927, 1960) and the All-Star Game twice (1944, 1959); including the first night All-Star Game in 1944. The All-Alou outfield was used by the San Francisco Giants at Forbes on September 15, 1963 when Felipe, Jesus, and Matty took the field for the Giants. One final interesting fact, there was never a no-hitter thrown at Forbes Field in its 61-year history.

A few odd elements from this ball park include the following: a hard infield that was feared by many Major League infielders (ask Tony Kubek!); the fans in the upper corner of the leftfield bleachers could not see the plate, because the third base stands were in the way; in the outfield, the bottoms of the light towers and the flag pole were in play.

The right field roof was an 86 foot high target for many Major League sluggers through the years. Eighteen homers were launched over the roof by 10 different players. Willie Stargell led the charge with seven round trippers. Babe Ruth was another legendary long-ball hitter to clear the roof. As he finished his career with the Boston Braves, on May 25, 1935, Ruth hit three home runs against the Bucs. His last four-bagger, number 714, cleared the right field roof. Babe Ruth was the first to launch one over the roof. He was followed by Ted Beard, Mickey Mantle, Wally Moon, Bob Skinner (2), Eddie Mathews (2), Jerry Lynch, Rusty Staub, Willie McCovey, and Willie Stargell (7).

The dimensions of Forbes Field changed several times over the years. Her original dimensions were 462 to center, 360 to left, and 376 to right field. The final dimensions in Forbes were:

There were many changes to the physical layout of the ballpark over the years. The Right Field Stands were added to the park after the 1925 season and the home run distance dropped from 376 to 300 feet; the right field screen was added in 1932. The distances from home plate were painted on the outfield wall in 1938. In 1940, flood lights and an electrical PA system were installed. The Pirates never had outfield advertisements like so many other parks, but in June 1943 until the end of the season, a 32 foot high wooden US Marine was erected in the outfield to advertise war bonds. Suspended press boxes were added in 1946, and for the 1959 All Star Game, three rows of VIP Boxes were added.

The Left-Center corner was so deep that the batting cage was stored there during the games. That deep center field allowed a lot of room for triples and inside the park home runs; Pirate "Chief" Owen Wilson set the major league record for triples (36) in a season in this park. In 1947, in order to boost home run production, a utility fence was installed in left field at 335 feet. The area was dubbed Greenberg's Garden, after the Hall of Fame slugger, Hank Greenberg, who finished his career in Pittsburgh. For seven seasons (1947-1953) it was also known as Kiner's Korner after another Pittsburgh slugger, Ralph Kiner. In 1954, the left field fence was changed back to 365 feet.

Forbes Field was sold to the University of Pittsburgh in 1958. Her closing was long anticipated. The final games at Forbes Field were played on June 28, 1970. The Pirates swept a double header from the same Chicago Cub team that opened the park almost 61 years to the day. As a 10 year-old fan, I was at the game. Here is a link to a picture of my souvenir program of the final game at Forbes Field. (25k) 40,918 fans said goodbye to the old ball park. Cubs pitcher Phil Regan was checked by umpire Al Barlick for "greasy kid's stuff"; Roberto Clemente made a spectacular catch in right field on a Don Kessinger drive and made a strong throw to first base, nearly doubling up the runner at first, Jack Hiatt. In the ninth inning of the final game with a Cub runner of first, Bill Mazeroski fielded a ground ball by Don Kessinger and stepped on second base to record the final out at Lady Forbes. The win pulled the Bucs even into a 1st place tie with the New York Mets. I still have a few newspaper clippings from the Post-Gazette, but they are yellowed and faded, so I haven't included them here.

Today, there are still a few physical reminders of the great ball park. The Honus Wagner statue that was erected in 1955 in Schenley Park was moved to Three Rivers Stadium. The Dreyfuss Memorial, which used to sit in play in center field at Forbes, now sits inside Gate A at Three Rivers. In the University of Pittsburgh's Forbes Quadrangle, home plate still sits, encased in glass. Outside on the sidewalk, a plaque marks the spot where Bill Mazeroski's 1960 World Series winning home run left the park, and a portion of the left-center field wall still stands. I visited the site on my last trip back to Pittsburgh and I took a few photos of the Forbes Field Landmarks.. Take a Guided Tour of Forbes Field Landmarks with Caleb Cohen - I used Caleb's maps during my tour and they were great.

If you have a special memory of this great ballpark, please drop me an e-mail note at the bottom of this page. I will collect a few stories and post them as links to this page. There are a couple already that I call, Forbes Field Memories.

Capacity: 35,000
Largest Crowd: 44,932 on September 23, 1956 vs the Dodgers.
Smallest Crowd: 200 on June 10, 1938 vs the Phillies.
The Outfield brick wall was 12 feet high.
The first night game in Pittsburgh was June 4, 1940; Pirates 14, Boston 2

Barney Dreyfuss conducted an extensive public campaign to solicit names for the new ballpark. Although General John Forbes' name provided a distinct historical tie to the city, it may have helped that the General's nickname was "Old Ironsides", which fit well with the first concrete and steel ballpark in league.

Read "Tales of the Tape" for a description of the longest ball hit in this ballpark.

Here is an article on Forbes Field from the Pirates Official Web Site: Forbes Field: A Day in the Life; by Abby Mendelson

Here is a Early Postcard of Forbes Field on Cecil Greek's Pirates Home Page. (37K)
Here's a bird's eye view of Forbes Field in the 1920's before the right field stands were erected in 1925.

Here are a few Forbes tidbits sent along by Denis Repp (splinter@usaor.net):

The Book, "Build Yourself, Forbes Field" by Len Martin with history by Dan Bonk has a wonderful collection of Forbes photos and facts.

Here's a link to a site with some photos and a brief summary on Forbes Field plus lots of other classic MLB ballparks (by Paul Munsey and Cory Suppes). The author even provides a link back here! Check out the 1909 panoramic view.


Three Rivers Stadium: 1970-2000

The stadium on the city's north side was named after the three rivers (Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers) that converge at Pittsburgh's Point State Park. The city's golden triangle, Point Park water fountain, the stadium, and Mt Washington with its Duquesne Incline cars combined to create a picturesque baseball setting that is unique to Pittsburgh. The original plans for the new park proposed a "Stadium Over the Monongahela" with the stadium positioned above two parking levels - all of this over the Mon River with room for boats to pass underneath. Other designs called for an open-sided stadium with a beautiful view of the Golden Triangle.

Three Rivers Stadium (TRS) opened on July 16, 1970. The Pirates lost to the Cincinnati Reds 3-2 (the same score and result as the first game at Forbes Field!). Dock Ellis was on the mound for the Bucs, and his first pitch to the Reds' Ty Cline was a called strike. The Pirates' Richie Hebner collected the first hit in the new ballpark with an infield single in the bottom of the first inning. Tony Perez of the Reds slammed the park's first home run with a round tripper in the fifth inning. Willie Stargell hit the first four-bagger for the Bucs with a shot in the sixth inning.

TRS has celebrated some Major League "firsts" and several interesting events. With their new stadium in 1970, the Pirates also unveiled new uniforms for the team. The Bucs were the first team in baseball to adopt the knit style uniforms. Three Rivers hosted the first playoff game ever played on artificial turf later in the year. TRS also celebrated another Major League "first" when it hosted the first ever night World Series game during the 1971 Series. The stadium has also hosted two All-Star Games (1974, 1994) and several Pirate Championship Seasons. In 1972, Roberto Clemente collected his 3,000th and final regular season hit at TRS. Roberto pounded a double off of the Mets' Jon Matlack. TRS also hosted the first night League Championship Series game October 7, 1975 (vs the Reds).

The 70-foot high upper deck has become the new target for long ball hitters in Pittsburgh. Ten hitters have hit balls into the upper deck. Willie Stargell leads the pack with four smashes. Some of those smashes are commemorated with numbers painted on the upper deck seats where they landed. Here is a list of those monumental drives:

Read "Tales of the Tape" for a description of the longest ball hit in this ballpark.

A few Forbes Field Landmarks were transferred to TRS. The Honus Wagner Statue was brought from Schenley Park to reside at Gate C. The Dreyfuss Memorial, which used to sit in play in center field at Forbes, now sits inside Gate A at Three Rivers. The Allegheny Club at TRS has the 8-by-12 foot section of the Forbes Field outfield wall where Bill Mazeroski's World Series winning home run went out of the park; the Club also has 12 Romanesque window frames from the old park and a plaque that commemorates Babe Ruth's 714th Home Run (hit at Forbes Field).

When you visit TRS, be sure to see the Roberto Clemente Statue at Gate A. It was dedicated in 1994 during the All Star Game celebration. There is also a statue of Art Rooney (Steeler owner) outside the stadium between Gates C and D. Be sure to see the Championship banners along the boardwalk on the ground-level between Gates A and C. In 1996, the team added Pennants (6' x 10') with the Pirates' eight retired uniform numbers to flag poles on the top of the stadium. The white flags had black and gold trim and were displayed in numerical order from left field to right field - with the exception of Roberto Clemente's #21, which was placed above his old position in right field. In 1999, the white pennants were replaced with black cloth with gold numbers. The retired numbers had previously been displayed on the outfield wall through the 1993 season. National League team logos were placed on the wall in 1994, but were replaced with advertisements (a first in TRS) in 1998. You can find a complete list of the Pirates Retired Uniform Numbers on another one of my pages. The Pirates have added Championship tarps to the upper deck seats that commemorate the great Pirate seasons of their rich history and also the Negro League Championships of the Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords. In 1999, the various Pirate and Steeler championships were commemorated on the 500-level facade and a "Three Rivers Stadium 1970-2001" epitaph was posted along the 500-level ring behind homeplate and in center field.

While Forbes Field never hosted a no-hitter in her 61 summers, Three Rivers hosted one in just her second season. Future Hall of Famer Bob Gibson, of the St Louis Cardinals, no-hit the Bucs on August 14, 1971. The Pirates John Candelaria followed on August 9, 1976 with a no-hitter vs the Los Angeles Dodgers (2-0), and Pirate hurlers Francisco Cordova and Ricardo Rincon combined for an exciting extra inning no-hitter on July 12, 1997 against the Houston Astros (3-0). On that night, the house was packed for a salute to Jackie Robinson, retiring Robinson's #42 from the Bucco inventory, celebrating breaking barriers, and an always popular pre-scheduled post-game fireworks display. A 3-run home run by pinch hitter Mark Smith in the bottom of the 10th inning snapped the scoreless tie and sent the packed Pittsburgh house into a celebratory fenzy.

Other interesting baseball notes from Three Rivers: Braves owner Ted Turner managed one game for the Atlanta franchise - in a game at the confluence. Phillie Mike Schmidt hit home run #500 here on his way to Cooperstown. In addition to baseball highlights, Three Rivers has hosted 4 Super Bowl Championships for the Steelers, classic Pitt vs Penn State football clashes, a Stanley Cup celebration party for the Penguins, Billy Graham Crusades, a Promise Keeper's rally, Concerts, and Monster Truck demonstrations. It was delayed in its concept stage for nearly 15 years while local politicians argued over financing and labor struggles also contributed to the delay. Over budget, behind schedule, and never delivering the promise of surrounding development, Three Rivers Stadium had a roller coaster ride during its lifespan. Envisioned in 1955, ground wasn't broken until April 25, 1968. An 18-month construction timeline could have put the Bucs in Three Rivers in 1969 or to open the 1970 campaign, but labor problems delayed the construction. Originally planned as an $18M project, the final cost was $35M. Due to poor local operating plans, renovations, and operating loans, the debt on the Stadium grew to $40M still outstanding as plans were being made to demolish it in 2001.

In 1995, the city celebrated 25 years of baseball at TRS. There have been countless memorable baseball events already at Three Rivers Stadium, and there are sure to be many more in the years to come. In 1997, the Gate C area was revamped prior to opening day; the ticket booths/turnstiles moved down by the Honus Wagner statue. By June, a stadium store (Signature Sports) and glass front restaurant (Headwaters Cafe) went in near Gate C. Also in 1997, the stadium added new field-level seats to replace the original red seats from 1970. The new seats are blue, more comfortable, and have a convenient cup holder.

Capacity: 48,044 (baseball, with the 1996 addition of premium seats behind homeplate; you'll see several sources that list the old figure of 47,972. A 1998 survey yielded a count of 47,687 seats that are for sale for baseball.); 61,000 (for football)
Largest Crowd: 1994 All-Star Game; July 12, 1994: 59,568

October 10, 1991: 57,533 vs the Braves
Dimensions:
Foul Lines: 335 feet
Power Alleys: 375 feet
Center Field: 400 feet

Here's a link to a site with a good photo and summary on Three Rivers plus lots of other MLB ballparks (by Paul Munsey and Cory Suppes).

Memories of Three Rivers; this is a collection of notes that various fans have sent to me.

I took a tour of Three Rivers in 1995; here's my report.

If you are looking for a seating diagram for TRS, visit the Buc's official web site.

There is a public auction to sell off Stadium items scheduled in January. Proceeds are designated to defray the demolition costs. Demolition is scheduled for February 18, 2001. The concrete from Three Rivers Stadium will be reground and used in nearby parking lots.

The Post-Gazette did a wrap-up series of articles for the final weekend at Three Rivers Stadium.

The Official web site for Three Rivers Stadium has additional information on its history and various concerts and events.

Three Rivers Stadium was imploded on February 11, 2001. A mix of business, retail, residential, and entertainment construction is planned for 2004-2006.


PNC Park: (2001 and beyond) Early Ballpark Images are at the Post Gazette
OnTV Ballpark Cam shows a day-by-day construction of the ballpark. Bryan Diana offers some photo gallaries of PNC Park. PNC Bank and the Pirates are both excited about this partnership and created a special logo for the ballpark.

Last Updated 22 July 2003

New for 2003: A no-scalping zone, where fans can legally buy/sell extra tickets at face valueor below, is located on Tony Dorsett Drive, between General Robinson Street and North Shore Drive. On Opening Night, the Pirates dedicated a bronze sculpture of Pirate Slugger Ralph Kiner's hands holding a bat, which will be displayed near the left field rotundra.

New for 2002: Former Pirate catcher Manny Sanguillen will operate Manny's bar-b-que on the outfield concourse behind the centerfield batter's eye.

Complete PNC Park history: at the Official Pirate web site.
The Bucs opened PNC Park against the Reds on Monday April 9th, 2001. The Bucs lost the opener 8-2 to their rivals from Cincinnati. Todd Ritchie was the opening day starter. Barry Larkin was the first batter for the Reds, and Pittsburgh native Sean Casey hit the first home run in PNC Park history. Two exhibition games were played vs the New York Mets on Saturday March 31 and Sunday April 1st.

Official Title: PNC Park at North Shore

The Pirates have honored some their great ball players from various eras. The Honus Wagner statue, originally unveiled in 1955 in Schenley Park outside Forbes Field and later relocated outside of Gate C (nearest the river) at Three Rivers Stadium, graces the home plate entrance to PNC Park. This old time statue of an old time ball player stands as a silent sentry at the front door to PNC Park. The Roberto Clemente Statue, originally dedicated at Gate A of Three Rivers Stadium in 1994, has been relocated to the North Shore end of the Roberto Clemente (formerly 6th Street) Bridge. In April 2001, the Pirates dedicated a new Willie Stargell statue at the Left Field entrance on Federal Street as the new park opened (and as Stargell passed away from lingering medical problems). A street on the west side of the park, previously designated Avenue of the Pirates, was renamed Mazeroski Way in honor of Bill Mazeroski's election to the Hall of Fame in 2001.

The main concourse provides an open view of the field, so you can get a hot dog and a beer and not miss any of the action on the field while you take a break from your seats. The Riverwalk area behind the outfield seats in Right and Center also provide a quick break from the action and a beautiful view of the Allegheny River and Pittsburgh skyline. The left field rotunda (an open, circular ramp to the upper level) provides several great views of the field for a standing room crowd. This park was built for fans to walk around to appreciate its beauty.

Top Ten things to like about PNC Park:

  1. The Main concourse: watch the ballgame as you step out for a beer, a hot dog, or a trip to the rest room. Lots of standing room behind the last row of seats with a close-up view of the field.
  2. Two Concourse design: The upper deck seats are closer to the field.
  3. The view of downtown Pittsburgh (and the Allegheny River): The Gateway Clipper boats honk their horns as they pass by during the game.
  4. Bleacher seats in Left Field and the six-foot wall:
  5. The Riverwalk area in Right and Center Field:
  6. Walking across the Clemente Bridge before the game:
  7. Posing with the Wagner, Clemente, and Stargell statues:
  8. Watching part of the game from the Left Field Rotunda ramp:
  9. The 21-foot scoreboard in Right Field with in-game updates:
  10. Unique limestone finish:

Many of the Pirate Greats from various eras are displayed on banners that line the three street sides of the ballpark. Inside the park, placards with pictures of great moments in Pirate history, Pirate greats, and former ballparks line the walking concourses, and larger banners with baseball cards pictures of everyday Pirate players across several eras wrap around the circular left field rotunda. The baseball cards are arranged by position, so that all of the Pirate shortstops are honored on one particular banner.

Other ballpark relics relocated to PNC Park: The Dreyfuss memorial is located on the main concourse behind home plate. It greets fans as they ascend the escalators from the home plate entrance. The Pirate retired numbers are displayed along the facade below the club level seating. The blue color of the seats are a replica of the "Forbes Field Blue" color that was present in the Bucs' old Oakland-based ballpark.

The ballpark has premium lounges for the club seat owners. A Home Plate Club services the field-level premium seats. On the Club level, Gunner's Lounge is on the first base side, Bierbauer's above home plate, and the Keystone Corner (with a "9" ball in honor of Maz) services the third base side of the second deck club seats. Several historic uniform displays, photos, and memorabilia are displayed on the club level. Bats of each of the Pirate batting title winners are on display in the third base lounge.

On the main concourse for all fans, the concession stands offer a variety of Pittsburgh favorites. You'll find "Smorgasburgh" on the first baseline with local favorites Benkovitz's Seafood, Primanti Brothers Sandwiches, and Quaker Steak & Lube wings. Pops Plaza, named in honor of Willie "Pops" Stargell, is tucked in the left field corner and offers Chicken on the Hill, Willie's Chili, Familee Bar-B-Q, Pub 475, and Pops Potato Patch (try the garlic fries - Mmmmmmm). A center field picnic area, Riverwalk food carts, Rooftop deck at the left field Outback Steakhouse, a play area for kids is located inside the RF gate, and Pirates Cove for group seating in the right field club area, all offer food and fun. Outside the park, Atria's, Vincent's Pizza, and the Penn Brewery have stands on the Federal Street side of the park that are open year round (plus you can access these concessions from inside the park on game days. Seattle's Best Coffee and Outback Steakhouse (which has some seats that look into the ballpark) provide some nationally known flavor. All of these eateries are open every day of the year. Sports Legacy Art and a PNC Bank branch office help to make PNC Park an every day destination for Pittsburgh visitors and locals alike. Several shops at the park include: Pirate Outfitters, Sports Legacy, Buckaroos (a children's sports shop), Ballpark News, and the Pirates Cap Company.

The center field batters eye is a celebration of Pennsylvania native floral species. Indiana County rhododendrons, Pennsylvania pines and mountain laurel tastefully decorate the center field grassy berm.

Bucco Bricks: During the construction of PNC park, fans could make a donation to the Roberto Clemente Fund, and have a personalized brick used in the sidewalk construction outside the park. Look for two Gearhard clan bricks near the Stargell statue left field entrance gate. "John H. Gearhard, Brackenridge PA" (for my late Dad) and "Glenn Gearhard, Murrysville PA" recognize our home towns.

A Ball Park A-to-Z Guide is on the team's Official web site. You can take a tour of PNC Park; I went in July 2002 and enjoyed my visit to the batting cage, Pirates dugout, Press Box, Club level, and a suite. We also saw a video of the Pirate clubhouse.

In the early 1990's, there was a retro revolution in ballpark design. Baltimore led the way with Oriole Park at Camden Yards (which in many ways was influenced by an Oriole executive's memories of Pittsburgh's old Forbes Field), and was closely followed by Jacobs Field in Cleveland and Coors Field in Denver. A new ballpark became part of the solution to increase a team's revenue flows. When Kevin McClatchy's ownership group bought the Pirates in February 1996, part of his purchase agreement included a pledge by local officials to work towards a new ballpark in Pittsburgh. In November 1997, The Regional Renaissance Partnership had an initiative on the ballot that would have financed numerous projects (an enhanced Convention Center, development of new theater and entertainment facilities and riverfront parks, improvements in the infrastructure (highways, mass transit, etc.) as well as a new Pirates ballpark, and Steeler Stadium). The proposed half-cent sales tax increase was easily defeated at the polls. The Pirates ownership had a clause in their contract that could place the team for sale if ballpark funding was not in place by February 1st 1998. The climate around major league baseball at the time had several teams considering relocating, and eager ownership groups were looking to purchase existing baseball clubs for the North Carolina and Washington DC markets. On March 9, 1998, Pittsburgh's mayor and Allegheny County Commissioners announced a financing blue print for the new ballpark (as well as an expanded convention center, new Steeler football stadium, and plans to raze Three Rivers Stadium). On March 17, 1998 the Pirates unveiled a detailed model of their new ballpark which generally received rave reviews. The local funding plan was approved on July 9, 1998; and after a false start in late-November and some tense moments in late-December, the state funding portion was added on February 3, 1999. The ground-breaking ceremony was held in early-April 1999. A rapid 24-month construction phase allowed the team to open the new ballpark in April 2001.

A North Side site along the Allegheny River (Between Fort Duquesne and Sixth Street bridges) was selected in June 1996. The park is situated within the city grid of Federal Street, East General Robinson Street, Stadium Drive East, and the Allegheny River. In December 1996, the city bought the vacant Wesco building for $3.6 million. It was the first important step in acquiring the land for the new ballpark site. Despite the fits and starts with the final funding plan, plans for the park continued with the PNC Bank naming rights ceremony on August 6, 1998 and the demolition of the Wesco building on September 29, 1998.

The design concept evolved over time. The first sketches of the park were released prior to the failed RRPI campaign. The team's announcement in March 1998 provided a scale model of the ballpark and photos of the park looking out towards the city skyline, and another view looking back towards the north side site. The final product had some small changes in the detailed design. The Pirate Official web site offers an extensive PNC Park Photo Gallery.

The ballpark design is unique from Camden and Jacobs. It is a 2-tiered design that is more like Wrigley or Fenway (it was the first two-deck design ballpark in the US since Milwaukee's County Stadium was completed in 1953). The park was opened as the smallest in the majors (next to Fenway which may be planned for replacement soon). With 38,000 seats (37,898), each seat provides intimate views of the field. Seats behind home plate are only 51 feet from the batter's box - this is even closer than the pitcher's mound is to the plate. Seats down the baselines are only 45 feet from 1st and 3rd base. 26,000 of the seats are on the field level; the upper deck holds 13,000-some seats, while other recent parks perch 18,000 fans in the upper deck. Some early criticisms of the design have wondered if a 38,000 fan park is large enough compared to the 42,000-45,000 parks built recently. Baseball is best viewed from a seat close to the action. The new Pittsburgh Park provides intimate views that other parks now envy. I imagine that temporary seats could be added for special events like All Star Games or Post Season games. A smaller park makes each seat better; as we expand up and out to allow for more seating, the effect on every other seat moves them further away from the field also. The design has reduced the height of the highest seat in the new park by 32% from TRS highest seat. I believe the seat size of this park is just right for Pittsburgh. This park will start a new revolution in ballpark design; the new Pirates park will be the new standard for premier Major League parks through out the country.

The outside design and setting of the park is also dramatic. From it's north side site, the park provides a dramatic sweeping view of downtown Pittsburgh. The Allegheny River and 6th Street (renamed Roberto Clemente) Bridge also provides prominent landmarks in the ballpark vista. When a TV camera shows the scene from behind home plate, the audience has no doubt that this game is being broadcast from Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. Not only does the Roberto Clemente Bridge provide a pleasing visual quality to the ballpark's backdrop, the bridge also provides a functional use as a pedestrian walkway from downtown to the new park. The bridge is closed to vehicles on game day and makes the bridge part of the ballpark experience. There is a wonderful view into the ballpark from the bridge. What the Warehouse and Eutaw Street are to Camden Yards, the Roberto Clemente Bridge is (and more) to the new Pittsburgh ballpark.

While several recent retro-style ballparks have used brick as their main design feature, PNC Park set a new standard and look by using limestone on the exterior as well as along several interior faces of the ballpark. The blue steel superstructure reminds visitors that they are in the Steel City. The combination of limestone and steel reflects the historical architecture of the region.

The seven light stanchions at PNC Park are unique in new ballpark design. They look like large tooth brushes, and will remind you of the light standards at Forbes Field.

The North Side has long been a separate entity from downtown; this new park helps to link the Golden Triangle to the North Side with riverboat and pedestrian access. Pirate Owner Kevin McClatchy said, "I believe that the new ballpark will serve as the crown jewel of the renaissance of the City of Pittsburgh. This facility will offer all of the intamacy of beloved Forbes Field with all of the modern amenities that today's baseball fans expect." The park features a public arcade, open year round, that includes shops and restaurants.

The ballpark fits snuggly into the exisiting city grid; this is similar to the great urban parks like Wrigley and Fenway. The new park is situated tightly against Federal Street, Roberto Clemente Bridge, and the Allegheny River. A 480 foot blast will plunk into the river - Holy Davy Jones' Locker!

River Blasts: Home Runs that landed in the Allegheny River on the fly:

  1. July 6, 2002: Daryl Ward, Houston Astros, off of Pirates' Kip Wells 479'
Other tape measure Home Runs at PNC Park:
  1. Longest Home Run: Sammy Sosa, April 12, 2002, Left-Center Field near the base of the flag poles, 484'
  2. Longest Pirate Home Run: Matt Stairs, July 21, 2003, Clearing the stands in Right-Center Field and rolling into the Allegheny River, estimated at 461'
  3. Honorable mention: Kip Wells, April 25, 2003, Off the Center Field batter's eye, 457'
Largest crowd at PNC Park: 39,392. Saturday August 11, 2001 vs San Diego Padres.

More details on the seating plan: There are 540 Field Club seats that are closest to the action (Premium seats behind home plate and between the dugouts) with access to a private lounge. The majority of the seats are on the field level (23,101 of the 38,000). The upper deck (15,026 seats) is divided into 2,900 club seats (wider seats, wider aisles, convenient cup holders, plus 4 party suites for 25-50 fans each), 1,261 suite seats, and 10,468 regular upper deck seats. 5,000 seats are available as Outfield Bleachers (in left field); 500 seats are located in right-center field, and another 1,900 seats in right field. A terraced picnic area sits right of center where you can pause to enjoy a snack during the game. 69 luxury suites are tucked underneath the second deck.

Other ballpark details: there is a ballpark entrance off of the Roberto Clemente Bridge; it leads you right onto the ballpark's main concourse. Fans arriving by riverboat are greeted with live music from a riverfront stage. The 16 light towers in this new park are also reminicint of Forbes Field and are unique from other recent ballparks. The warning track is constructed from crushed lava from Colorado; it's unique draining capability helps to get rain delay games started sooner.

Ballpark Field Measurements: The outfield measurements are asymetrical like some of the classic old-time ballparks. It is 325 feet to the left field corner, and 389 to the leftfield power alley. The deepest part of the park is left of center at 410 feet from home plate, and is sometimes called the Northside Notch. Center field is 399 feet, the right field alley is 375 feet, and it is 320 feet to the right field corner (with a high wall though in right). The walls vary in height; the left field wall is only 6 feet high, so fans enjoy a fielder's level view, while right handed sluggers enjoy the short porch and low wall (except it juts quickly to the alley). The wall rises to 10 feet towards center field (past the bullpen area), then increases to 21 feet in right field. This 21 foot wall is a silent tribute in honor of Pittsburgh's Great Right Fielder Roberto Clemente (who wore #21 on his Pirates jersey). These unique outfield dimensions make some interesting opportunities for great defensive plays to shag down a ball hit to the deep power alley in left-center, challenge a fielder to play a bounce correctly off the right field wall, or have unique caroms that will allow swift runners to stretch modern day doubles into PNC Park triples. These unique wall configuration should give a home field advantage to Pirate defenders. The out-of-town scoreboard is situated in the right field wall with unique displays for the number of outs and location of base runners. The wall offers several surfaces the ball can bounce off of: chain link fence over the scoreboard makes the ball drop straight down, while an exposed concrete section makes for more pronounced carooms. The Bullpens are located beyond the Left-Center Field wall and staggered/elevated similar to those at Camden Yards. The Pirates, originally in front, are now located in the rear bullpen.

Across General Robinson Street, there will be 2 parking garages for season ticket holders. The 2 garages across from the ballpark will hold 2,000-3,000 cars. Allegheny Center Mall will become a better option now that it will be much closer to the ballpark. ACM holds 2,500 cars. There is supposed to be a new city/county garage built near the site which would add more parking spots. After the development is started around the old TRS site, more parking will be created. This dispersed parking plan creates less post-game traffic jams than at Three Rivers Stadium. Local officials have also put in for a federal transportation grant to extend public transportation to the North Side. Some officials have talked about a light rail system that would have stops at both the new ballpark and new Steeler's stadium. You should expect other business development in the area too. Hyatt and Doubletree Hotels have already said they intend to build new hotels near the new Pittsburgh convention center.

The price tag for the new ballpark was $262 million (including site improvements, construction, and site acquisition). The team covered any cost over-runs on the construction as long as they controled the design and construction phases of the project.

There is a 30-year (29 1/2 year) lease deal between the city/county and the Pirates.

The naming rights deal with PNC is for 20 years. In addition to the $1.4M per year for the naming rights, PNC has a package for other signs, a branch office and ATM rights in the park. The entire naming rights package may approach $40M revenue for the franchise. The team is expected to cover operating costs (utilities and maintenance) as long as the team receives the revenues from concessions and advertising.

Financing: The complete funding blue print was approved 3 Feb '99. The funding plan didn't call for any new broad-based taxes, and it funds the ballpark with existing revenue streams. The $803M package funded the new Pirates ballpark, a new Steelers Stadium, retired the debt on TRS and also razed the old stadium , expand the Convention Center, and construct a new Pittsburgh Development Center (located roughly on the site of the current TRS, it will include hotels, restaurants, entertainment venues, and what Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy calls a first-day attraction intended to attract tourists and visitors, estimated cost $30 million). The Development Center will not be able to be built until the new parks are built, and TRS is razed.

During the first season at PNC Park, a permanent display that honors members of the Negro National League was dedicated. The exhibit features eight 18-foot long fiberglass bats with the names of 16 former players, including Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Buck Leonard, Satchel Paige, Oscar Charleston, Sonny Bankhead, Judy Johnson and Smokey Joe Williams. The display is over the Left Field (General Robinson Street) entrance to the park.

Special thanks for Mike Emeigh for his detailed summaries of several local news articles.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette provides a page that contains information about Plan B, the financing plan for PNC Park, Heinz Field, and the new Convention Center. The P-G also has some background articles on the Renaissance III project.


Other Pittsburgh Parks

The topic of this collection of web pages is the National League Pittsburgh Pirates franchise. These other Pittsburgh ballpark descriptions are kept short by design. If you have some web-based information on these ballparks, I will gladly add a link to your web page.

Union Park:

The Pittsburgh Alleghenies first played in Union Park in 1876, when the Alleghenies brought professional baseball to Pittsburgh. The following year, the franchise was accepted into the minor league International Association. The team and league disbanded after the 1877 season. By the time the American Association Alleghenies returned to the scene in 1882, the team was playing in the early version of Exposition Park.
Green Cathedrals reports that the National League Providence Grays played here August 22-24 1878. The park's capacity was 2,500 fans.

Ammon Field:

This ballpark was located in the city's Hill District (up the hill from the current day Civic Arena). It was the home of some of the great Negro League teams from Pittsburgh. Today, there is a state-sponsored plaque which recognizes the historical significance of the ballpark site. Famed Negro League slugger Josh Gibson is also mentioned on the plaque. You can find it on the Allegheny River side of Bedford Avenue, between Sumers and Kirkpatrick/Whiteside; the address is 2217 Bedford Avenue. You can walk down the steps to a little league ballfield.

Greenlee Field:

This ballpark was also in the city's Hill District, just a few blocks up the hill from Ammon Field. It was off Bedford Avenue between Chauncy and Duff. There are historical groups working to try and commemorate the site in a similar manner as Ammon Field.
David Marasco has written an article about the first game at Greenlee field: "Lifting the Lid at Greenlee". The first game at Greenlee was on April 29, 1932. The park was torn down December 10, 1938.
***Sources: 1995 Record and Information Guide (Media Guide) and
the Official 1995 Magazine and Scorecard. Additionally, I have cited some information from Green Cathedrals and Build It Yourself Forbes Field.
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