Pittsburgh Is Catching Baseball Fever

Pittsburgh Is Catching Baseball Fever
July 2, 2013, 4:30 pm

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.

Forbes.com’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]

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