Time will tell whether the Pirates got any better during the offseason, but their jewel of a ballpark got a little bigger.
The first physical expansion since PNC Park opened in April 2001 has added to the concrete terrace on the main concourse level at the right field corner and the Pirates are debuting the Budweiser Bowtie Bar there.
"This is all brand new. This used to be just open girders," Pirates executive vice president Lou DePaoli said, pointing to the freshly poured concrete floor during a media tour of the ballpark today.
What's new at PNC Park?
The Pirates prepare for opening day at PNC Park with a new menu of food items and other features. (Video by Nate Guidry; 4/3/2012)
The area, with a large U-shaped bar and views of the playing field and Allegheny River, will be open to all ticket holders and also available for group rentals. It will have seven flat screen TVs and is covered and partially glassed in to shield patrons from wind and rain. The bar will stay open after general alcohol sales are ended in the sixth inning of games, but fans will not be able to enter or leave the area with beer.
The Bowtie Bar, named after Budweiser's logo, is one of several new wrinkles at PNC Park as the Pirates prepare to open their home season against the Philadelphia Phillies at 1:35 p.m. Thursday.
New food items at the ballpark this season include Bucco Nacho: lime tortilla chips with nacho cheese, smoked jalapeno peach salsa, cilantro creme fraiche and ground beef, one of several exotic nacho offerings being trotted out at U.S. ballparks this season by concessionaire ARAMARK.
Also on the menu this season are a Reuben dog (with thousand-island dressing, swiss cheese and sauerkraut); a smokehouse dog (with pulled pork, onion straws and Kansas City-style barbecue sauce; the Polish Hill dog (with slaw, mini potato pierogies and onion straws); and jumbo Cajun fries.
Just4U, a new healthy options stand, will offer gluten-free hot dogs and nachos, grilled brie-and-fruit-compote sandwiches, vegan sweet potato chips, salads and fruit.
Nakama, the South Side restaurant, will debut a stand that will bring sushi and other Japanese delicacies to fans, and Chickie's & Pete's, a Philadelphia-area sports bar chain, will serve up their "world famous crabfries," crinkle-cut fries with a secret blend of spices and white cheese sauce.
The Pirates have added about 90 feet of drink rail -- a platform upon which customers can place food and drink -- to the left field bleacher area for those who want to stand and watch batting practice or the game there.
They also will experiment with "dynamic" pricing for 1,400 left field bleacher seats this season. The tickets won't be made available until 10 days before the game and the prices will fluctuate based on demand.
"If it works well, we'll consider expanding it to other parts of the ballpark," Mr. DePaoli said.
Jon Schmitz: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1868.