PNC Park is the stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in which the Pirates lose their home games. It seats 38,365 and opened in 2001. The idea was for it to be an old-fashioned ballpark; the turf is real grass and the Pirates don't have to share it with a football team, which are the major differences between this park and its predecessor.

Once upon a time, the Pirates played in Forbes Field. Around 1970 it was deemed too old-fashioned, so Three Rivers Stadium was built to replace it. Around 2000 Three Rivers was deemed not old-fashioned enough, and so PNC Park was built to replace it.

An article1 from the Post-Gazette tells most of the story about how PNC Park was foisted upon a city that didn't want it:

The city alone couldn't afford such a project, and Republican county Commissioners Larry Dunn and Bob Cranmer were staunch opponents, so the idea was hatched to ask voters in 11 counties if they would raise their sales tax burden to build a new ballpark, football stadium and an enlarged convention center. Despite the most expensive local campaign in history, and even though Cranmer broke ranks to ally himself with Murphy and Democratic county Commissioner Mike Dawida, the referendum bombed.

To this day, you can hear people saying they thought they had said 'no.' But a backdoor strategy -- a generic Plan B -- had been readied before the 1997 referendum. The key was tapping into the existing 1 percent sales tax surcharge in Allegheny County without having to ask the voters.

But even that took some tinkering with the Regional Assets District board that controlled the surcharge revenue. Plan B was one vote short of passage until Cranmer replaced an appointee who opposed the idea. The local share for the project -- $143 million -- was approved by the bare minimum majority in July 1998.

The Pirates' share, $44 million, came in part from the sale of the stadium's naming rights to PNC Bank, which paid $30 million for 20 years. The announcement that the new park would be named after a bank was booed at a Pirates game; some suggested it ought to be named Jammed Down The Taxpayers Throat Park.

A pretty sweet deal, for the Pirates - a new stadium for only $14 million. At the time, I wished I was old enough to vote so that I could vote down the referendum. Turns out it wouldn't have mattered.

While I was away at school, construction began on both new stadiums (the other is for the Steelers) and the contents of Three Rivers were auctioned off amidst controversy - in part because only a few hundred seats (and other items) were auctioned off at prices too high for the average fan, while thousands of seats were either taken by the demolition company or went down with the stadium. In the meantime, the demolition was being financed by ticket sales from a raffle in which tickets cost $10 and the lucky winner got to push the plunger (a strictly ceremonial plunger, of course, with the actual detonation controlled by someone else) that blew up the stadium. Ticket sales didn't come close to covering the cost - not enough people hated the old stadium that much.

Plenty of interesting stadium-related things happened while the whole story was unfolding. One of the interesting tidbits is that a drunk woman managed to somehow accidentally drive through a construction ramp onto the field one night - that story made it into News of the Weird. Controversy abounded throughout the project as the taxpayers with a grudge accused the various officials involved of acting out of greed. In many cases, I suspect, they were right.


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