OPENING DAY 2014

It may take extra innings to finish PNC Park's Closer

New menu items range from ‘tatchos’ to milkshakes to craft beers


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Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack ... no, to heck with that. Buy me a Closer, the new PNC Park four-decker sandwich with nine types of cheese and candied bacon.

Or tatchos, which are tater tots with chili, spicy nacho cheese, sour cream and scallions.

Perhaps I'll wash it all down with a Salty Caramel or Vanilla Bean milkshake. Or a Coke ice cream float. Or a craft beer.

PNC Park introduces new food items, other changes

The home of the Pirates, PNC Park, will sport a new array of food items this season along with other changes, such as customizable jerseys from the merchandise shops. (Video by Doug Oster; 3/28/2014)

Ballpark food has come a long way since the days of Forbes Field, when 30-cent hot dogs and nickel bags of peanuts dominated the menu. That was in clear evidence on Friday, when the Pirates hosted "What's New At PNC Park for 2014" day.

As is typical for the annual event, the focus was on food and drink, and fans will have several new ways to fill their tummies and empty their wallets as the ballpark begins its 14th season on Monday with the Pirates hosting the Chicago Cubs.

On the main concourse, behind Section 115, BRGR, renowned in these parts for gourmet burgers and handmade milkshakes, has opened a stand that will offer four types of burger and four flavors of shake. Prices range from $11.75 to $12.25 for the burgers and $9 for the shakes.

When Pirates manager Clint Hurdle coined the term "abso-bucn-lutely" last season, he was helping to name a BRGR ballpark offerings, the Abso-bac'n-lutely, a bacon cheeseburger.

"Just like baseball, BRGR is quintessentially Americana," co-proprietor Rick Stern said.

In left field, in the Rivertowne Brewing Hall of Fame Club, comes the debut of a sandwich that already has gained national notoriety: The Closer. It is four slices of thick toasted sourdough adorned with nine (that is not a misprint) slices of cheese, four slabs of candied bacon and a compote made with leeks and Granny Smith apples. It will sell for $14.50.

Challenged to name the nine cheeses, David Artiano, executive chef for concessionaire Aramark, pulled out his smartphone so he wouldn't forget any. The lineup: provolone, mozzarella, parmesan, gouda, cheddar, pepperjack, swiss, bleu and feta.

"This is gonna be one of those sandwiches if you're looking for a lighter fare, I'd stay away from it," said Steve Musciano, Aramark general manager.

Tatchos will be offered in the general concessions areas, along with another newcomer, pulled pork nachos. For those sticking to hotdogs and regular nachos, North Shore Refreshment booths will offer a chili-cheese topping (for an extra fee).

And there will be Arn in the Ahtfield.

As part of a long-term deal with the Pirates, Pittsburgh Brewing has christened the lower bleachers in left field as IC Light Landing. Prominent ad signs have been installed, along with tables festooned with Iron City and IC Light logos. The company will have its own beer kiosk behind the bleachers and has unveiled a line of Pirates-themed cans, bottles and cases.

"The Pirates were born in 1887. Iron City was born in 1861. We've been doing business together for more than 100 years," said Pittsburgh Brewing CEO Brian Walsh.

Pepsi, the soft drink provider since PNC Park opened, has been booted in favor of a long-term deal between the Pirates and Coca-Cola. The Pepsi poles sticking up from the right field stands are now Highmark poles.

Workers have raced to install 100 pieces of equipment and 2,000 feet of syrup lines in the last six weeks, said Jim Dinderman, vice president of sales operations. Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, Diet Sprite, Coke Zero, Fanta Orange, Cherry Coke, Powerade, Dasani water, Minute Maid juices and Vitaminwater are some of the products that will be sold at various locations.

The Pirates Clubhouse Store for the first time has equipment that can personalize Pirates jerseys and embroider ball caps while the customer waits.

Fans entering PNC Park may, for the first time, be asked to pass through upright metal detectors. Searches with metal-detecting wands began last season. Because of this, the Pirates are urging fans to arrive early. Gates will open at 11 a.m., with game time at 1:05 p.m.

Game tickets are priced on three tiers this season, depending on the day of week and the opponent. The most expensive tickets are for opening day, Saturday nights starting in May and games against the Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies, a total of 17 games.

While the bitter winter weather has sucked the greenery out of much of the Western Pennsylvania landscape, the lawn at PNC Park is an oasis of bright, healthy turf. "We are fortunate enough to have a crew that stayed on top of this grass ... whenever they could get to it," said Dennis DaPra, Pirates executive vice president and general manager of the ballpark.

A subsurface air system that can deliver warm air to the turf was a big help, he added.


Jon Schmitz: jschmitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1868.

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