Saturday, May 5, 2012

Where Baseball Catches the City

Posted by Deirdre Oakley, PITTSBURGH, PA -- There are two things that have always intrigued me about baseball: how fast the pitchers throw the ball and how, more often than not, the batters actually hit it. While this has never made me an avid baseball fan, when a colleague asked if I wanted to go to a Pirates game while we were at the Urban Affairs Association meeting in Pittsburgh, I was once again intrigued. Mind you, not because of the pitchers and batters, but because of the PNC Park stadium, where the game would be played. Opened in 2001 to replace the aging Three Rivers Stadium, PNC was designed to more fully integrate baseball with the city through spectacular skyline and river views. Interestingly, despite the stadium's proximity to the river, Daryle Ward has been the only player to hit a home run into it.

PNC is also stadium you can easily walk to, from, and around; has a sports bar where you can get a very nice glass of chardonnay; as well as a playground by the river for bored kids. To get to the stadium from downtown you must cross the Sixth Street Bridge. On game night the bridge is closed to traffic, so people typically park downtown and walk over the bridge, avoiding the major traffic jams of so many other stadiums. It also makes for a better game scene. While we were walking to the game I couldn't help but get excited watching the crowds of enthusiastic fans traverse the bridge.


I also wondered what was there before the stadium was built. Was this another massive urban redevelopment project requiring the displacement of current residents? It turns out that there was a high rise for seniors there. But the Sports and Exhibition Authority built replacement housing in the neighborhood, leasing a nearby apartment complex for the residents while this housing was being built.

The game itself was unimpressive except for a homerun by the Pirates during the beginning of the first inning. In the end though, they lost 4 to 1. It didn't seem to matter much -- a stadium like PNC catches the city, making everybody happy.

Deirdre Oakley is the Editor of Social Shutter and an Associate Professor in Sociology at Georgia State University. You can reach her at

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