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Pirates improving at ticket booth

Despite lagging attendance through the first six weeks of the season, the Pirates are on track to draw more fans to PNC Park than they did a year ago.

According to the team's chief marketing officer, overall ticket sales are 14 percent ahead of the 2010 pace. Through the first 18 home games, sales were up 2.4 percent compared to the same point last season.

"We're seeing some pretty good growth," executive vice president Lou DePaoli said Thursday. "Even some weekday games are moving well."

On a typical night so far this season, PNC Park, with a capacity of 38,362, has been less than 45 percent full. The Pirates rank next to last in the majors with an average home attendance of 16,985.

Last year, the Pirates ranked 27th out of 30 major league clubs with an average attendance of 19,918.

The Pirates sold out PNC Park for their home opener. But lousy weather, school nights and another Stanley Cup playoffs appearance by the Penguins have conspired to suppress crowds in April and early May.

However, more than 30,000 people are expected today for an interleague game against the Detroit Tigers. DePaoli said a sellout is possible and hopes it triggers another streak of full houses like the Pirates had last year.

At the height of summer last year, PNC Park sold out for six straight home games.

"We should have more sellouts this year than we did last year," said DePaoli, who added he expects to see "at least nine" sellouts this season.

The June 24-26 interleague series against the Boston Red Sox is almost sold out. A few seats have been held back, DePaoli said, for fans who purchase a mini- or full-season ticket plan.

The Pirates also have sold more than 90,000 tickets for the June 3-5 series against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Additional Information:

Filling the seats

Teams with best and worst average home attendance in 2011:

1. Phillies: 45,417

2. Yankees: 42,265

3. Giants: 41,785

28. Marlins: 17,044

29. Pirates: 16,985

30. Indians: 15,647

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