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PNC PARK 101

Sunday, June 10, 2001; Page E02

Baseball's Pittsburgh Pirates are struggling this season -- but at least they're doing it in style. At the new PNC Park, a gem among the retro diamonds inspired by Baltimore's Camden Yards, fans are getting a grand-slam view.

DEEP BACKGROUND: With the opening of PNC Park on April 9, the city is flaunting the results of a decade of riverfront redevelopment. The downtown boom along the Allegheny River includes the ballpark, a revitalized theater district, three museums, parklets and recreation trails.

THE PARK: The cozy 38,000-seat, $262 million replacement for Three Rivers Stadium drops its outfield wall to reveal a startlingly close, sparkling skyline that's framed by golden bridges. The park's second deck is cantilevered over the first, eliminating girders that would block the view of the diamond and downtown.

Past the turnstiles, ticket holders can stroll the park's Riverwalk promenade or nosh on Pittsburgh snacks, including authentically metallic Iron City Beer, overstuffed Primanti sandwiches and Polish sushi (Benkovitz's, on the right field side). Little sluggers can run bases inside the park at their own playground; other restless fans can shop for Pirate regalia or catch the action from the park's open ramped rotundas. The waterfront deck and restaurant at Outback Steak House are open daily, a beer-and-shirt-sleeves way to see the stadium without a ticket.

TICKETS: Bleacher seats, separated from the outfield by a low fence and under a Jumbotron the size of a Little League field, are $12. Dugout box seats gofor $35. Best bargain view of the city and game: $9 seats in the right field grandstand. To buy tickets, go to www.pittsburghpirates.com or call877-893-BUCS. With the exception of the Clevelandseries June 15-17, seats are available all season, with a better selection for weekday games.

GETTING TO PNC: Though the stadium is an easy exit from Route 279 on the city's North Side, driving is not necessary. You can walk to the park from the business district; it's an easy throw from across the river, on the northern end of the 200-yard Clemente Bridge (pedestrians-only on game days). Or board a cable car on Mount Washington (here, the hillside funiculars are pronounced "IN-clines"), descend to Station Square and hop a sternwheeler from the Gateway Clipper Fleet. Cruise to the ballpark in 10 minutes ($5 round trip; call 412-355-7980).

POST-GAME: Walk back downtown across the Clemente through the cultural district. Catch a set at Dowe's on Ninth (121 Ninth St.), a club with top-notch jazz, Latin and blues acts Monday to Saturday. For diners, there's upscale fare at Palomino's (4 Gateway Center), Lidia's (1400 Smallman St.), of PBS's "Italian Table" fame, and Original Fish Market (1001 Liberty Ave.) -- eateries close enough to reflect PNC's lights.

WHERE TO STAY: The new Renaissance Pittsburgh (107 Sixth St., 866-454-4400) boasts a rococo marble lobby and rooms that could double as PNC luxury boxes. This renovated riverfront dowager offers great views of the North Side, including the ballpark. Riverview rooms are $159. The hotel offers a package with tickets to the Civic Light Opera for $200 a night; Pirates tix are a $23 add-on.

Other walkable choices downtown include the Pittsburgh Hilton, Omni William Penn, Marriott City Center, Ramada Plaza Suites and Westin Convention Center. All offer packages, including discount Pirates tickets for May and weekday games. For details, contact the city's visitors center (see below).

INFORMATION: Greater Pittsburgh Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800-927-8376, www.visitpittsburgh.com.

-- Christine H. O'Toole

Pittsburgh is 250 miles from D.C., about a five-hour drive. From I-270, take I-70 west to the Pennsylvania Turnpike. From Exit 6, Monroeville, follow Route 376 to downtown. Nonstop, round-trip fares on US Airways start at $230, with restrictions; weekend e-savers tend to go for about $119. Amtrak is $88 round trip, and Greyhound is $78.


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