Kovacevic: Anyone want to be part of this?
TribLIVE Sports Videos
If they'd built the Taj Mahal to house two-ball juggling acts, all this might have made sense.
It might have made sense that PNC Park, almost universally acclaimed as the planet's prettiest baseball facility, could have become a Cathedral of the Damned. Home to the worst franchise in sports. Host to one relevant event — an All-Star Game — in its dozen-year existence. That happy place Pittsburghers fill up only for huge helpings of bobbleheads, bad bands, Zambelli fireworks and zany game-show interludes.
Well, that ends right now.
Or at least it should.
This season, at long last, is exactly why those dignitaries stuck shovels in the North Shore dirt in the spring of 1999 and, for better or worse depending on your economic leaning, dug $270 million deep into the tax coffers to get it done.
And if you ask me, this season — no, this series and this Friday night game between the Pirates and Brewers — represents the onus finally flipping onto Pittsburghers to do their part.
Look, personally, I couldn't care less if PNC Park is packed or empty on this night or any other. The only party that profits is the Pirates.
I'm merely pointing out that this is how it was supposed to work.
PNC was designed with the smallest seating capacity of all the new stadiums toward an aim of creating what sports executives call “ticket tension,” meaning the public feels more urgency to buy in advance fearing a sellout. Once the tension heightens, the tickets are bought up and — theoretically, anyway — player payroll rises, too.
So far this season, even with payroll at a team record $70 million and stirring team performance, it hasn't worked at all. Through 38 home dates, nearly half the schedule, the Pirates have only four sellouts and are averaging crowds of 23,203, or 61 percent of capacity. That average ranks 23rd out of Major League Baseball's 30 teams, and it's down 1,652 from the same point last year.
For further perspective, you don't have to look far.
The Cardinals, tied with the Pirates for the majors' best record at 48-30, rank No. 3 in attendance with an average of 41,558 at Busch Stadium. And if you think market size is a factor, think again. The St. Louis metropolitan region ranks No. 19 compared to Pittsburgh's No. 22, according to the Census' 2013 figures.
The Reds, currently the third wheel in this wonderful Central Division race, rank No. 15 in attendance with an average of 30,750 at Great American Ballpark. Cincinnati's metro size ranks 28th.
Even the Brewers, in the midst of a miserable summer, rank No. 13 in attendance with an average of 31,449 at Miller Park. Milwaukee's metro size is among pro sports' smallest at 39th.
To an extent, I get it.
The Cardinals, Reds and Brewers all opened this season with larger season-ticket bases. That's critically important. The Pirates won't reveal the exact size of their base, but it's believed to be in the range of 10,000 full-season equivalents. That's a lot of extra tickets to sell.
I also get that 20 years of losing capped by two Epic Collapses tend to be mildly discouraging, to be kind.
I also get that we're spoiled as a sports town. The Steelers have been contenders for the better part of four decades. The Penguins have been blessed with some of the NHL's top talent for three decades.
At the same time, what the Pirates have done this summer hasn't exactly sneaked up on anyone. It's been going on for months. That's offered ample opportunity to add to group sales, even partial-plan season tickets that are still available for as cheap as $250 for 30 games.
I'll save you the math: That's $8.33 per game, pretty much what you pay for a movie and popcorn.
If you want field-level seats, those will set you back all of $12.33.
For the opening game this weekend, with Gerrit Cole pitching, thousands of individual tickets could still be had online for as little as $12 as of Thursday night.
What's the wait?
Late Wednesday night, during the Pirates' flight home from Seattle, A.J. Burnett's always colorful Twitter account included the following exchange:
@740JZD: “PNC Park better be packed this whole weekend!”
@wudeydo34: “Right! Why shouldn't it?”
The latter was Burnett. And as hot-button an issue as baseball attendance can be for Pittsburghers, nary a disputing syllable was tweeted in return.
That's because he's right.
We're talking first place.
Best record in baseball.
Six-game winning streak.
Prized prospect throwing 100-mph heat against a hated nemesis.
If not now, then when?
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Police: Escaped Armstrong County inmate armed, dangerous homicide suspect
- Pirates’ Burnett endures another poor start in blowout loss to Reds
- Steelers’ reserve quarterbacks vie to secure spot behind Roethlisberger, Gradkowski
- Pirates bolster bullpen by trading for former closer Soria
- Inside the Steelers: Rookie linebacker Chickillo continues to excel
- Warrant issued for man accused of killing Brookline woman
- Steelers stress improved conditioning in attempt to play past injuries
- Emails among Governor Wolf’s aides reveal concern over AG Kane
- Pirates notebook: Blanton introduced; Worley designated for assignment
- Traded after Stanley Cup, Saad not alone in being dealt after title
- Memories of Steelers fan from Beaver Falls go beyond simple recall