PITTSBURGH—After five years of serving Pittsburgh as their state-of-the-art sporting facility, PNC Park, the home of the rundown, poorly maintained Pirates, said Tuesday it is threatening to leave Pittsburgh unless a new team can be built within the next three years.
"I love the city of Pittsburgh, but the Pirates are an old, dilapidated club built from other teams' spare parts, and its very foundation is rotting away," the stadium said to reporters assembled in its press box. "I had every intention to stay here for the duration of my career as a ballpark, but given that I haven't seen any realistic long-term plans for improving my resident team's ramshackle condition, I would be lying if I said I wasn't thinking about taking my services elsewhere."
The young stadium, regarded as one of the best of the recent crop of real-estate development projects throughout the league, added that "after this year's All Star Game, I have learned that a ballpark of my caliber deserves to host that kind of play every day."
"The Pirates have become such an eyesore that I've even had to resort to bringing in different teams each week to play in me," the stadium said.
Although Pirates owner Kevin McClatchy said he is doing everything in his power to keep the park in Pittsburgh—attempting a rebuilding process every few years, making small free-agent additions, and erecting a new six-foot-tall outfielder in left field—the stadium dismissed the moves as nothing more than "a fresh coat of paint on a team that's in danger of collapsing under its own weight."
Mets owner Fred Wilpon has been vocal about his interest in bringing PNC Park to New York for the 2007 season so that it may take over for an aging Shea Stadium.
"The New York Mets have all the necessary components in place to fulfill PNC Park's needs," Wilpon said. "We have a gleaming new shortstop in Jose Reyes. We have a visually stunning, jaw-dropping player in Carlos Beltran. And the infrastructure of our minor-league system is designed to ensure that PNC Park will be inhabited by great ballplayers for years to come."
"Also, PNC Park has already established a good rapport and budding friendship with this year's Home Run Derby runner-up David Wright—the bedrock of our team's stability," Wilpon added.
Though PNC Park would not elaborate on its relationship with Wright, it did say that Wright mentioned how much he enjoyed its dimensions, especially those in left and left-center.
Pittsburgh fans were irate upon hearing news of the stadium's possible relocation.
"If that ballpark left, this city would be devastated," said Pittsburgh resident Howard Valinsky. "I make a point of taking my kids down to the stadium during Pirates away games so they can stand outside of it and marvel at the rugged limestone and the blue steel—both of which have had an excellent year despite rainy conditions."
Valisnky added: "The fact that McClatchy hasn't given this stadium the sort of beautiful, well-designed team it deserves is a travesty. Let's face it, the Pirates have been falling apart for years. Frankly, I find myself wondering if it's even safe for fans to be near them."
The stadium echoed Valinsky's sentiments, saying, "The fans have been so great at being there for me. But if I can't hold a team that can compete, then what's supposed to hold me here?"
In a last-ditch effort to keep PNC Park, a citywide referendum will be added to this year's midterm election that, if passed, would draw from a property-tax fund to aid McClatchy in assembling a new, state-of-the-art team by 2010.
PNC Park, however, is not convinced.
"When I came here in 2001, they promised me a championship team," the stadium said. "I was warned by venerable and much-beloved Three Rivers Stadium—which imploded soon afterwards, as you know—that I should look elsewhere, that this team was set in its ways and not focused on rebuilding, that they were simply using me as a means to make money," the stadium said. "I was young and brash and I didn't listen. Now that I am more mature and have settled a bit, I realize I have to do what is best for me and my family."
In the event that the Pirate organization does not have the financial wherewithal to meet the park's demands, there are contingency plans in place to attract other stadiums to the city. While the league has said it frowns on the idea of putting an expansion stadium in the Pittsburgh area, some have floated the idea of bringing over old Tiger Stadium, which went into forced retirement in 2000.