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Pittsburgh Is Catching Baseball Fever

Jul 2, 2013, 4:30 PM EDT


A mid-summer trip to PNC Park might be more crowded and expensive than you bargained for. After two consecutive decades of nothing but sub-.500 and often last-place teams, the Pirates suddenly find themselves with the best record in baseball at this season’s midway point – and fans are responding.

The Pirates recently enjoyed a fifth-straight home sellout, which believe it or not is the longest streak since they opened their new ballpark in 2001, and may be the longest such streak in franchise history. That run was broken up with the help of some inclement weather, but with the club’s record 51-30, and optimism that these Bucs won’t fall apart down the stretch, you can expect the trend of packed houses to continue in Pittsburgh.’s Kurt Badenhausen writes about how the organization’s resurgence on the field has led to a dramatic increase at the box office. Needless to say, Phillies fans heading west this week may have to shell out more dough for tickets than they are used to.

The team’s success on the field and off has been building for a couple of years. The Pirates started hot the past two seasons only to see second half fades on the diamond. But fans turned out with attendance up 30% between 2010 and 2012. Last year represented the second highest attendance in the franchise’s history with 2.1 million fans. This year is going to be better.

“With the club’s strong performance, (ticket) sales have picked up at a brisk pace the past two or three weeks,” says Pirates president Frank Coonelly. Sunday was the largest single day of ticket sales in the franchise’s history. Total tickets already sold for the season (including games still to be played) are up 11% versus last year. Per-game attendance is still running slightly behind last year, but Coonelly says that is a function of scheduling and the season starting on a Monday instead of near the weekend. Connelly expects final 2013 attendance to trail only 2001 when PNC opened and 2.4 million fans came through the turnstiles.

The landscape is quite a bit different than it is here, where the greatest era Phillies baseball appears to be approaching its end, and attendance is down markedly.

While we’re not fans of Pittsburgh sports to say the least, it’s still nice to see a down-on-its-luck organization with a history and tradition like the Pirates turn things around and become relevant again. You can’t really blame the fans there for not being more loyal to a team that racked up nine last-place finishes in the last 20 years.

Although if you were hoping a July 4 trip to Pitt would be a cheap way to catch the Phillies at a beautiful ballpark on the river, sorry. Hope you bought your tickets in advance.

>> The Pittsburgh Pirates Are Baseball’s Best And Business Is Thriving [Forbes]

  1. Amazin' - Jul 2, 2013 at 4:59 PM

    Last year it was the Nationals. This year it’s the Pirates. Every team should have one feel good year.

  2. thebillypenntimes - Jul 2, 2013 at 5:00 PM

    I do not understand the sympathy for Pittsburgh. They abandon their hockey and baseball teams, they are treated like royalty for cheering a perennial champion in the Steelers, and somehow they should receive anything better than apathy?

    Every city has fairweather fans, but not all fanbases are created equal. Pittsburgh deserves the Pirates because they have never shown to be smart to the game nor loyal to their team.

    • willh888 - Jul 2, 2013 at 5:07 PM

      Big bad Steelers finished in the bottom third in the league in attendance. Amazingly, they even finished behind Jacksonville in total numbers and % capacity. If you ask any casual fan, they’ll probably tell you Pitt has the best football fans on the planet because they wave 3 foot yellow towels at games.

      Fact is they couldn’t even sell out 8 football games last year. Eight. Perception is a powerful thing. Meanwhile the Eagles sold out over 100% to see a team who was already terrible. Those are people who deserve to walk by a glass case full of big silver trophies.

    • Mike - Jul 2, 2013 at 6:00 PM

      Abandoned their baseball team? \

      They haven’t had a winning season since Sid Bream. (If you are under 30, you may have to Google that.) They were moved into a different division than their biggest rival- The Phillies. The ownership has let go of players such as Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonila Brian Giles, Jason Kendall, Aramis Ramierez, Freddy Sanchez, Nate McLouth and Adam Laroche. If you were sticking around for that, you are not a loyal fan, you are a damn fool.

      • chew - Jul 2, 2013 at 6:39 PM

        Listen Bucco, that you are giving reasons as you have thoughtfully laid before us, is nothing but a poor excuse, that which breeds fair-weather fandom in the first place. Pitt is the example of the fair-weather fan.

      • Dan P - Jul 2, 2013 at 7:02 PM

        Im a philly guy thru and thru…But willhh and crew apparently dont seem to remember veterans stadium being empty for phillies and eagles games until the 2000s. wasnt there jist a piece run on this very site saying fan attendance is down like 5000 or somethin? Grow up woth the fairweather fan comments, shit happens everywhere.

      • willh888 - Jul 2, 2013 at 7:37 PM

        sorry hardcore guy, i forgot about a few decades ago at that fantastic building. I don’t think you can compare the Vet to any stadium ever made. Look at the correlation you made between the pirates and the decrease in Phils tickets. Going from 45,000 to 39,000 isn’t exactly a great way to make your point. Pirates fans would barely draw 10,000 on a beautiful summer night. Pirates fans just don’t go to baseball games, and it’s mostly because they suck. I get all that. I remember Phils games where you could do cartwheels in the upper deck on a nightly basis. You throw up a beautiful PNC or Heinz in Pitt and they’re still empty? That’s amazing. Especially when the football fans are though of as the greatest on earth, yet they just can’t find the strength to pack their park 8 times per year. So you got me. Phils fans decades ago = Modern Pitt fans.

      • Dan P - Jul 2, 2013 at 9:57 PM

        Ok so the vet wasnt as empty as pnc was but the novelty of a new stadium wouldn’t habe kept fans rangled in that long in the 90s…CBP wasnt filled to the brim every night after the inaugural season until 07…And for for the eagles…i have season tix and most other season tix holders give away their tickets when the team is doing bad.

        And you wanna talk about drawing a terrible pirates-esque crowd, then why dont you goto a sixers game? Oh wait, you probably have written the sixers off as the bastard stepchild of philly sports just like every other philly fan. Do the sixers even draw 2000 people in on average? The only time that place is full is when lebron or kobe are in town.

      • willh888 - Jul 2, 2013 at 10:30 PM

        Nice to see we’re talking about everything else other than my point (Steelers). CBP drew about 34,000 the year before 2007, and 38,000 that year. Not bad for a team that didn’t make the playoffs in 13 years. Pitt is drawing 24,000 for a first place team. Either way, that’s not what I was talking about.. other guy brought up the Pirates.

        The real shame is the Steelers. I don’t really feel like repeating it. Eight games

      • Lionel - Jul 3, 2013 at 7:42 AM

        Will, you can totally compare the Vet with 3 Rivers Stadium, Riverfront Stadium, Busch Stadium, Shea Stadium, RFK, and Fulton County stadium. They were all pretty much the same stadium.

        The Eagles weren’t a hot ticket until the Andy Reid era. In the 80′s, you could not give away Eagles tickets. In the 90′s, I used to get free tickets to the game 2 or 3 times a year. I even remember $15 tickets for the Bengals game last year on Stubhub. I went to the Redskins game for $20 Also, plenty of seats still available on Ticketmaster for the Eagles upcoming season. There have also been some sparsely attended Phillies games this year after one season out of the playoffs.

        Also, Will, maybe the reason nobody else is talking about “your point” is because you are talking about the Steelers on an article about the Pirates. You sound like a bitter, angry Eagles fan (I know, redundant) complaining that the Steelers have 6 Super Bowls and the Eagles still have none. Super Bowls are based on the team’s performance, not the fans.

        Maybe you should switch the brand of face paint you use. Maybe that will help the Eagles win a Super Bowl.

      • Dan P - Jul 3, 2013 at 8:07 AM

        Umm…you brought up the steelers in a pirates article. And glad to see you ignore my point about Philly completely abandoning its basketball team when talking about fan loyalty.

      • willh888 - Jul 3, 2013 at 9:30 AM

        haha, holy bajezus guys did you two share a groupon trip to Pittsburgh or something? The poster before me said:

        “they are treated like royalty for cheering a perennial champion in the Steelers,”

        and then I hit the really confusing “reply” button and said what I wanted to say. Maybe I should have addressed every sentence in chronological order.. so i’ll try to get to most of it.

        Dan, I’ll get to your point about the Sixers even though you and Lionel teamed up like the Bushwackers to explain to me this is a Pirates only thread. The Sixers play in the NBA. The NBA isn’t what it used to be. Sixers fans left years ago. Philly doesn’t like pro basketball. I’d peg them more of a college basketball town. Obvious.

        Lionel, I’m not sure what you old heads did in the 80′s but I cant speak for those slobs or their sports habits 30 years ago. Here’s the point you’re both missing, because I’m sure not missing your points about CBP being filled by 35,000 fans in seasons they weren’t in the playoffs. I know it’s natural for a fan to stop attending games when a team isn’t good. I know that. You know that. Radio knows that.
        What I was pointing out is the Steelers have a good team.. maybe almost a dynasty if they can win one more in the next year or two and they still have lazy fans. They’re below Jacksonville in capacity. They’re actually bottom 10. I’m not mad. It’s actually funny. Like haha funny.

  3. BenE. - Jul 2, 2013 at 6:26 PM

    Fully on the Pirates and Orioles bandwagons this year. I can’t believe the O’s got Chris Davis from Texas for Koji Uehara and Tommy Hunter.

  4. Mostel - Jul 2, 2013 at 6:45 PM

    Pittsburgh fans are the WORST non-New Yorkers out there. The deserve nothing but the worst. They are at their most annoying at Penn State and I hope to see many knocked out during a future Flyers / Pens Winter Classic game.

  5. sfsu - Jul 2, 2013 at 7:30 PM

    The Pirates did not sell out Game 7 of the 1991 NLCS.

  6. hitnrun - Jul 3, 2013 at 8:44 AM

    I would be inclined to root for the Pirates to have one good year, but 20 years is such a beautiful streak, I’d hate to see it end.

  7. psudrozz - Jul 3, 2013 at 9:02 AM

    i’ve never seen concessions accept food stamps before.

    god, those people are so poor. so very poor.


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