The Pirates got this stadium right. It is a perfect baseball stadium in so many ways. It avoids the easy traps and excesses that a lesser designed stadium would fall for. It elegantly recognizes history without beating the fans over the head with it. It provides, probably the most picturesque view in sports and shares it with all. The crucial decision about the design of the stadium revolved around eliminating an outfield upper deck. Without an upper deck, virtually every seat has a postcard view of the Pittsburg downtown skyline. This limits the stadium to 38,000 seats compared to the 41,000 in Nats Park.
The area surrounding the stadium honors the rich history of Pittsburgh baseball. The home plate gate has a hulking statue of Honus Wagner one of the most important players in baseball and card collecting history. Around the stadium are statues of Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente, and Bill Mazeroski. These statues are positioned along Federal Street and the Allegheny River sides of the stadium. Federal Street is closed on game day as the bars and restaurants are packed before and after games. The Clemente bridge is also closed for walking access to and from downtown.
The history of the franchise is mostly limited to the stadium exterior. Once a ticket holder enters the stadium, it s about the current team and the game day experience. In lesser hands, the stadium would have a giant pirate ship in the outfield. This stadium stays clear of the kitschy traps that are tempting, but in the end hollow, such as mascot slides and intrusive LED boards. The Pirates, along with the city of Pittsburgh have a unique and distinctive color scheme for all their major league pro teams. The Gold and Black, or as Wiz Khalifa say, Black and Yellow provides a very identifiable color palate for fans as they fill stadium and cascade up the isles.
The stadium is packed with food options, from your standard ballpark fare to more geographic specialties like the Primanti Brothers Sandwiches (who doesn’t like french fries on their sandwich.) There were standing tables in the concourse and picnic tables for families. The bar in right field had views of the field and a deck of TVs to catch replays of the action. The between innings entrainment was standard boiler plate ball park including the Racing Perogies.
The team does right by recognizing the contribution of the Negro Leagues to the fabric of Pittsburgh baseball. The Homestead Grays, one of the most successful and influential Negro League teams played many of its home games in Forbes Field, which it shared with the Pirates. The Grays had a unique history where they considered Washington D.C. their home also. The Grays have 12 hall of famers including Josh Gibson and Cool Papa Bell. Nationals Park honors Gibson with a statue, just inside the Centerfield Gate. The most important thing about this stadium is that it makes sense. It fits and enhances it surrounding neighborhood. It looks classical, but not faux throwback. It has an intimacy that is reminiscent of a well designed minor league stadium, but its amenities and design are major league. This is one of the best stadiums in America.
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