Ballpark Quirks: PNC Park honors a Pittsburgh legend in Clemente
Pittsburgh loved Roberto Clemente, and PNC Park makes that clear, with everything from outfield walls built in his tribute to a stadium oriented and designed to show off the bridge crossing the Allegheny River named in his honor.Pirates' old home until 1971, Forbes Field, into the 38,000-plus-seat stadium proved a must for stadium designer Earl Santee. The Populous architect told SI.com that the love for Clemente — which led to the renaming of a bridge over the Allegheny in his honor — drove the orientation and design of the two-deck stadium.
"The color of the bridge (yellow), how it is arched, the trusses coming across the Allegheny, those are really powerful images," Santee said. "Clemente Bridge becomes a centerfield icon, one of the signatures of that building and that team."
The Clemente Bridge, renamed in conjunction with the building of PNC Park, closes down to vehicles on Pirates game days, turning into a pedestrian walkway from downtown, even allowing visitors past a Clemente statue. The architecture of the bridge ties with the historic Forbes Field, allowing PNC to play with that nostalgia with masonry archways across the entry level façade, steel trusses and decorative terra cotta-tiled pillars.
For a team that has lived in Pittsburgh since 1887, having a stadium that directly looks at both the city and team history from every angle honors that history and Clemente, at least in the form of a bridge.
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.