Pirates fans end every season thinking "maybe next year"... maybe next year we will get milkshakes, microbrews and a chance to text security about the obnoxious guy in the seat behind us.
That year is here at PNC Park.
Today's home opener will give a standing-room-only crowd of more than 38,000 fans lots of reasons for hope, but parking may not be one of them.
The availability of parking slots will be down this year. Two construction projects near the ballpark-- an amphitheater and a hotel -- will squeeze out about 900 spaces, although 300 of those already had been lost in the middle of last season when hotel construction began, said Ralph Reetz, general manager of Alco Parking Corp.
He said "there's a chance" that a hundred or so of the lost spaces might be available today in what used to be Lot 2, between the Bettis Grill and Heinz Field, "but we may not know until [today]."
Commuters will not be permitted to park in North Shore lots before 9:30 and then must pay game-day rates.
A new option for fans this year is the garage at the Rivers Casino. Parking is free to cars if all the occupants are older than 21, $6 for a valet. The best access is from Beaver Avenue.
TO OPENING DAY
The Post-Gazette's five-day baseball preview:
Sunday: Think 2010 might not matter for the Pirates? From the rookies to the owner to the real boss, it will matter to these 10 people.
Monday: Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata and Brad Lincoln, the top prospects, should arrive this summer with a flourish.
Brian Warecki, the Pirates' senior director of communications, said the Pirates have worked with developers on the North Shore in "a systematic process that considers fan parking first. Despite the current construction projects, the West General Robinson Street garage and the Rivers Casino will provide additional parking for fans."
Nearly every one of the 1,250 slots in the West General Robinson Street garage will be available for game parking, said Mr. Reetz. Employees of Allegheny General Hospital who park in the garage have been notified they must park elsewhere for opening day, said Mr. Reetz.
Most rates at North Shore lots are unchanged from last year, from $10 to $20.
The Pirates encourage fans to park in perimeter lots and use buses, the T and river transport. From Station Square, fans can take the Gateway Clipper or the T to Wood Street station and walk. There is parking at the Grant Street Transportation Center near the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, with access from Penn Avenue or 12th Street via the 10th Street bypass.
The Roberto Clemente Bridge will close to vehicles at 10 a.m. for the 1:35 p.m. game.
Changes inside the park should bring fans back to the bright side.
A new option now exists to escape the hoi polloi. The new Club Cambria on suite level on the third base side is the size of four suites and will admit fans who hold season ticket plans. It will feature a full-service bar, flat-screen televisions, private rest rooms and a concierge.
The Majestic Clubhouse Store has expanded its merchandise; bleacher backs in the right-field section have new paint; and fans can now anonymously text security to 61592 about problems and difficulties with other fans or for assistance.
A few discounts include tickets $6 off the regular price for children 14 and younger in select areas when another ticket is purchased in that section at full price.
Group discounts include a package in which a $20 ticket is priced at $18 and comes with a free cap; and a package with a $24 ticket priced at $21 and a Roberto Clemente replica jersey thrown in.
A few new concession items will be boneless wings at Quaker Steak & Lube, milkshakes at first-level Federal St. Grille and North Shore Refreshment stops and craft beers, including Erie Railbender, Dogfish Head and beers from the local Church Brew Works at Beers of the Burgh and Pub 475.
At Chicken on the Hill in Pops Plaza, fans can get monster chicken nachos, and at select Federal St. Grilles, a grilled chicken bistro sandwich served on ciabatta bread with sauce. Specialty burgers at the Federal St. Grille in section 120 will include kettle chips.
Behind the center-field bleachers, The Diamond's new items include funnel cake with raspberry dipping sauce and a double cheeseburger. North Shore Refreshment in section 128 has a reuben dog -- a hot dog with Thousand Island dressing, swiss cheese and sauerkraut.
At the Trib Total Media Hall of Fame Club, fans can order wild Pacific salmon roasted on a cedar plank, seared ahi tuna served with wasabi risotto cake and wakami salad, a grilled flat-iron steak, and two chicken dishes, cacciatore and broccoli alfredo.
The restaurant also will serve a variety of craft beers.
Diana Nelson Jones: email@example.com or 412-263-1626. Read her blog City Walkabou at post-gazette.com/localnews.