Bucco Fever: Pirates game attendance nearing record levels

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As the Pirates' team on the field chases its goal of a playoff spot, the team in the front office likewise gets closer to its goal -- 2,436,140.

That's the total that would set a new season attendance record for baseball games in Pittsburgh.

A winning team this season has put both goals within reach.

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With the season just past the midpoint, Lou DePaoli, the Pirates' chief marketing officer, said this will be one of the team's best-attended years.

"Things are going very well. We project out we'll finish ahead of last year, that's for sure," he said. "In the 42 home games played through the All-Star break, attendance has been up 12.25 percent over last year. And last year finished up 22 percent over 2010. So you're seeing some pretty significant attendance growth at PNC Park a couple of years in a row."

So far this season, the Pirates have drawn 1,069,946 fans, an average of 25,475 per game in the park with a capacity of 38,496. It's a pace that would end up with about 2,038,000 tickets sold. (Because of a rainout in April -- that was made up in a doubleheader -- the Pirates figure to have 80 home dates.)

That total would be second only to the 2,436,139 fans who attended games in 2001, the Pirates' first season in PNC Park.

"Our goal is to try to beat that 2.4 million," Mr. DePaoli said. "It's still mathematically possible to get there, but we'd need some really strong crowds from here on out."

The Pirates, who return to PNC Park Friday night, have crossed the fabled threshold of 2 million only two other times -- the division-winning seasons of 1990 and '91 in Three Rivers Stadium. Last year's flirtation with a winning record drew 1,940,429, the club's fourth-best total.

But the good news of the local team selling more tickets carries with it the bad news of fewer tickets left to buy.

"This Friday and Saturday are expected to sell out," Mr. DePaoli said. "There's a little more availability for Sunday, but not much. We're just about down to scattered singles and standing-room only."

The team has five Saturday games remaining, all just about sold out, he added. Individual seats for Fridays and Sundays also are going quickly.

The best way to assure yourself tickets, Mr. DePaoli said, is to purchase a prorated season-ticket package, which involves seats that the team has set aside. Or you could organize a group of 15 or more and purchase a block of seats.

Five of the remaining dates are weekday afternoons, not counting Labor Day, and August is dominated by teams from the West Coast.

Choose your date or choose your opponent, but choose them quickly.

"If the team keeps playing well, it doesn't matter who we're playing or what time we're playing," Mr. DePaoli said. "If the games keep meaning something, obviously you're going to see some very large crowds."

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Dan Majors: dmajors@post-gazette.com and 412-263-1456. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/ First Published July 19, 2012 7:45 PM


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