Randy Thompson spent Friday night huddled in his sleeping bag on a concrete parking lot outside PNC Park and was first in line to buy tickets at the new ballfield early Saturday.
That devotion wasn’t enough to get the O’Hara Township man the dugout box seats he wanted for the Pirates’ April 9 opener against Cincinnati.
‘When I got to the window, I told her I wanted the best seats available,’ said Thompson, 40. ‘I imagine (dugouts) were sold to season-ticket holders.’
At 10 a.m., a security officer cut a yellow ribbon and the throng of fans dashed across General Robinson Street for the ticket line.
Ticket-sellers dispensed 57,000 tickets yesterday for the inaugural season at the North Shore ballpark, said Vic Gregovits, Pirates vice president of marketing and broadcasting.
Sold out were opening day, two exhibition games against the New York Mets, fireworks night, the first night game and three regular-season games against the Cleveland Indians.
Thompson bought eight tickets – four right-field box seats for Opening Day and four for a June 28 game against the Florida Marlins. He plans to attend Opening Day with his mother, father and brother. He will take in the Marlins’ game with friends from Unisource, a paper distributor where he works.
‘I went for the right-field box because I wanted to get a good view of the city,’ Thompson said. ‘It’s supposed to give you a better sight line to the city and the scoreboard.’
Thompson camped out overnight on a whim. He was out with friends Friday night and drove by the stadium at midnight to see if a crowd was forming. None was. Since he had his sleeping bag in the car, he decided to stay.
‘Since the weather was nice, I said, why drive homeâ¢ I just camped out. I just wanted to have an opportunity to get some tickets for Opening Day.’
Fans had their pick of 83 home games yesterday. Prices started at $9 for seats in the left and right outfield grandstands. Infield boxes cost $25. Dugout box seats cost $35.
Spirits were high among the morning crowd of about 1,800. Several fans predicted a return to the playoffs this year. Others remarked that the new ballpark might help the club attract a power-hitter.
The Pirates attempted to create a festive atmosphere, although no one was allowed inside the $228 million stadium. A swing band performed on General Robinson Street. A clown juggled bowling pins. And a Pirate figure on stilts walked about.
Beaver Falls resident Mike Yoho said he arrived at 4 a.m.
‘We had to get a good spot in line,’ said Yoho, 20, pumping his fist and predicting a postseason appearance by the club. ‘We slept for an hour. We got up and came down here and got in line. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.’
Apollo resident Jeff Stewart, 43, said he recently moved back home from Arizona and wanted to begin following the team again.
‘I’m here to buy tickets for my 13-year-old son,’ he said.
Dale Morgan, 44, of Baldwin bought tickets for the second regular-season game, also against the Reds. He said he waited in line 15 minutes.
‘It’s going to be a beautiful place to watch baseball,’ Morgan said.
While the Pirates remain in spring training in Florida, some fans said they could feel their presence.
‘The Bucs are back,’ shouted Fran Dady, 52, of Baldwin.