PITTSBURGH -- This is the 15th year that PNC Park will serve as the home of the Pirates, and the glorious ballpark on Pittsburgh's North Shore still shows as well as ever. In fact, probably even better.
There had been very few physical changes to the facility since it opened in 2001, and team officials consider that a testament to the original design and construction. However, when the home portion of the 2015 campaign gets underway on Monday against the Tigers, fans will notice several enhancements to PNC Park, primarily in the form of new gathering spots.
The most impressive of the upgrades is the left-field terrace -- a two-level, standing-room terrace with 250 linear feet of drink rails, located behind the left-field bleachers. The terraces connect what was previously a gap between the bleachers and the Rivertowne Brewing Hall of Fame Club, which sits directly above them. The terraces and the club will be open to any fan with a ticket.
"The fans, if they desire, can watch all or some of the game from this area," Pirates president Frank Coonelly said while conducting a tour for the media on Thursday. "As you can see, one of the most spectacular and intimate views of the field anywhere is now from these terraces."
The Pirates also created a new outdoor patio that overlooks center field, adjacent to the terraces. This area -- which will be known as The Porch -- features bar tables and outdoor sofa-style seating, and can accommodate groups of approximately 25 people. From that spot, the game is directly in front of you, and the Allegheny River and Pittsburgh skyline are to the left.
"Just based on the pictures that our architect provided -- which were nice, but not nearly as spectacular as the space turned out -- we were able to sell The Porch out for all 81 games this season," Coonelly said. "It happened all in a matter of four or five days."
Among the other additions to PNC Park this year are: The Corner, a full-service bar at the base of the left-field rotunda; Terrace Bar, a full-service bar for the fans in the upper concourse; and Pirates Outfitters, an additional merchandise shop near the home-plate entrance, designed to meet the growing demands of Pirates fans who are rooting for their team to qualify for the playoffs for the third straight season.
The Pirates are extremely proud of PNC Park, and they've never been shy about referring to it as "the best ballpark in America." The new features are designed to help keep it that way.
"We believe PNC Park is second to none, and we also believe it's important that we're not resting on our laurels," Coonelly said. "We continue to move forward and do more in terms of what we provide for our fans at the ballpark. We want to make sure we keep it fun, family-friendly entertainment.
"Many of the amenities we added are directed toward giving fans more opportunity to get together as a community to watch Pirates baseball."
Jim Lachimia is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.