It All Comes Back To Spending, Pirates Fans

Andrew McCutchen

What follows is a list. Each line is where the Pittsburgh Pirates ranked in terms of Major League payroll, among the 30 teams.

The list begins with the year Bob Nutting took over as principal owner.

2007 – 27th
2008 – 27th
2009 – 28th
2010 – 30th
2011 – 28th
2012 – 26th
2013 – 27th
2014 – 27th
2015 – 25th
2016 – 21st
2017 – 23rd

More spending does not automatically equal more wins. However, in conducting the most rigorous and deepest analysis I have seen on the subject, Noah Davis and Michael Lopez found that “more money generally means more wins.”

Gerrit Cole Pirates

Credit: Jon Dawson/Creative Commons

The truly frustrating part? The Pirates were set up for more money to directly equal more wins.

In my debut of a (short-lived) sports analytics column for Pittsburgh Magazine in March 2015, I pointed out that the Pirates were in the perfect spot to spend. They had reached the playoffs the previous two seasons, seen attendance and revenue rise, and most importantly, saved enough money through their re-building process to make that splash.

It didn’t happen.

Those 2015 Pirates were two wins short of taking the division. In 2014, the Bucs were also two wins short of the division title. In 2013, three wins short.

All of those turned out to be years where a little bit of spending — on an extra pitcher, on an extra bat — would have had an outsized impact on where the team landed in October.

It’s what allowed the Cubs to jump from $89 million to $167 million in two years.


It’s what allowed the Astros to methodically work their way from $24 million to $45 million to $69 million to $97 million to $127 million.

Again, championship.

Andrew McCutchen Pirates

Credit: Keith Allison/Creative Commons

One other thing money allows you to do: make mistakes. You whiff on a six-figure contract? Eh. There’s more cash where that came from.

The Pirates don’t live in that world. And while I have grievances to air with Neal Huntington, in the grand scheme his bankroll is tighter than that of almost all of his fellow GMs.

And so, you get risk aversion.

You need young, cost-controlled players to compete. When a David Price or a Giancarlo Stanton hits the trade market, you can’t feel confident dealing multiple top prospects for him. They’re your currency.

You need that dreaded “financial flexibility.” Free agency? Pfft. The biggest free-agent contract your owner ever signed was 3 years, $39 million.

You get a No. 1 pick, and draft a state-of-the-art workhorse pitcher like Gerrit Cole. But you see his agent is Scott Boras. A long-term extension is a fairy tale.

You know how beloved Andrew McCutchen is, from the die-hards to the go-once-a-year-with-work-friends crowd. But on your budget, are you really going to spend on his age-32 season, his age-33 season, and so on?

Winning frugally? It can be done. But not for long. Not consistently. Not at a level that can realistically compete with the teams that, every year, are spending $50 million more than you. $70 million more. In the Dodgers’ case, $140 million more.

As for me, I’m on a word count budget. Gotta keep it under 500. Seems fitting.

Prospect Debut Day and Why Being a Pirates Fan Has Never Been Better

Jameson Taillon in his natural habitat (Scott Tidlund/Creative Commons)

Jameson Taillon in his natural habitat, a bullpen in Bradenton.

June is always a particularly fun month for baseball.

The weather is getting just about perfect. Kids are finishing up school for the year, so families start packing the ballpark every night. And as the NBA and NHL wrap up, more casual sports fans and media outlets start to notice, “Oh, right. Baseball.”

We hardcore fans? We get another treat too. Thanks to the particular silliness of the MLB collective bargaining agreement (have you ever tried explaining Super 2 to your dad?), June is usually the month teams twist the spigot marked PROSPECT PIPELINE and we all enjoy a new round of hotshot young ballplayers.

Screw off, Andy Williams. This is the most wonderful time of the year.

For many years as a Pirates fan, any Top Prospect Debut Day was actually one of the few fun events to which I could look forward.

Sure, we’re already 13 games under .500 and all is lost and baseball fandom is where your happiness is given concrete shoes and dumped in the river… but on the other hand, Jose Tabata!

Jose Tabata

Lips. Lips forever. (Scott Michaels/Creative Commons)

It was Opening Day 2.0 for the hopelessly devoted fan. If the Home Opener was the day you could dream, “Maybe this is the Buccos’ year,” then Top Prospect Debut Day was the day you could dream, “Maybe this is the baseball savior to lead us out of the wilderness.”

We got prospect crushes on new flames like Sean Burnett, Paul Maholm, Brad Lincoln and James McDonald. These were the Littlefield and Soon-After-Littlefield years in which any half-decent young player was labeled a TOP PROSPECT! and saddled with unfair savior-y expectations.

Then, baseballers of actual quality began to show up from the minor leagues to Pittsburgh. Neil Walker can actually hit and play second base! Pedro Alvarez can murder baseballs even if his strikeouts make you rip off your fingernails! Alex Presley had his moments, I think!

Beloved radio postgame host Rocco DeMaro called this crew The Cavalry, no doubt because these were the men on horses riding in to save us from defeat. But none of the above were superstars or saviors.

Only one player from The Cavalry actually came in, blew us away and never stopped.

When I found out Andrew McCutchen would be making his big-league introduction at PNC Park on a weekday afternoon, I begged my mom to spring me from school early (it had to have been, like, the 3rd-to-last day of the year). I got the go-ahead, because my mom is better than your mom, took the bus to the North Shore and saw a future worth cheering for.

YouTube highlights show it was your typical partly-cloudy Pittsburgh afternoon but my memory, sitting there in the center-field seats, will be that the sun never shone brighter.

A few days later, McCutchen clobbered two triples in back-to-back at-bats. Remember how exciting it was the first time we saw blur in dreadlocks stretch a double into a triple? I wrote on Facebook that “Usain Bolt has nothing on Cutch!” And I think I really believed it.

That was 7 years ago today.

Okay, 500 words to get to Jameson Taillon. It was 6 years ago today that Neal Huntington drafted the No. 8 prospect in the draft, high school pitcher Stetson Allie, to join the No. 2 prospect Taillon.

Stetson Allie and Jameson Taillon

Children were the future. (Matt Bandi/Creative Commons)

Their two paths since then show, if nothing else, the folly of counting on pitching prospects.

Allie had a 100-mph fastball but with the control of Wild Thing Ricky Vaughn soon after leaving the California Penal League. He gave up 37 walks in less than 27 minor-league innings before the Pirates handed him a bat and a first baseman’s glove.

Meanwhile, Taillon was developing as promised, flummoxing hitters with that drop-off-the-table curveball and getting to Double-A by the end of his second pro season. At age 20, he was just a couple steps from big-league dominance.

Then? Elbow injury. Tommy John surgery. Hernia surgery. I probably scrolled through thousands of tweets with some combination of the words “Taillon” and “rehab outing.”

But 6 years to the day he was drafted by the Pirates, Taillon arrived for his welcome press conference at PNC Park — all smiles. The injuries and the surgeries and the rehab? That was just the scenic route to Pittsburgh.

Tonight, he’ll go toe-to-toe toeing the same rubber as Noah Syndergaard, a pitcher almost a year younger than Taillon who nonetheless already has a full-season of Major League innings, a Marvel superhero nickname and talk-show hosts who ask IS HE BASEBALL’S BEST PITCHER QUESTION MARK.

There’s nowhere in the world Taillon would rather be tonight, and he and I have that in common.

Pirates fans seen some pretty exciting prospect premieres over the past few years: Starling Marte,  and Neal Huntington products Gerrit Cole and Gregory Polanco among them. But no longer do they, nor Taillon, need to pull a 100-loss roster out of ignominy and into the promised land.

Gregory Polanco

Gregory Polanco’s an All-Star candidate now, a prospect who’s meeting expectations (Daniel Decker/Creative Commons)

We’re in the promised land. Somehow playoff contention has become the norm, the expectation for your Pittsburgh Pirates instead of some Tim Burton-esque dreamland. We’re spoiled, and we’re well-served in reminding ourselves that we have, indeed, moved on up to the East Side.

As Taillon, Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows and Josh Bell show up in Pittsburgh over this next year or so, they don’t have to be The Cavalry. They don’t even all have to be great, though I and Huntington would quite like that result.

Instead, Huntington and Co. have built a team that can only needs these youngins to complement what is already on the field.

This is a good baseball team, and it doesn’t need a Savior. Top Prospect Debut Day is just another game in June, though for those of us following Taillon’s odyssey to the Majors, an exciting one.

And I didn’t have to plead to get out of school to go to this game.

Boston Ain’t Beijing: One Key Aspect of Olympic Hosting that Even Smart People Don’t Get

Boston skyline from Fenway Park

On Thursday, the United States Olympic Committee made a very smart choice. It will be submitting Boston’s proposal to host the 2024 Summer Olympics, putting forward a plan based on a compacting venue plan to compete with the likes of Paris, Berlin, Rome and Istanbul.

Boston Skyline 2024 Olympics

Too many other columnists would have you believe this city is doomed… DOOOOOOMED! (Nelson48/Wikimedia Commons)

I follow Olympic bidding very closely (while more interesting people take up actual hobbies and disciplines), and I have seen very few proposals over the years I like more than Boston’s for 2024. Savvy leaders have identified the factors that make for a technically strong Games for athletes and spectators, and they are crafting a bid that succeed in those factors, all in a beautiful and picturesque city.

But predictably, news that the Olympic Games may possibly return to the United States launched a thousand hot takes against the whole idea. Paraphrasing, but not much: “The Olympics are terrible for cities who host them” or “The Olympics are clusterf***s that curse every city with multiple white-elephant venues” or “We have too many problems to focus on hosting a two-week circus.”

One author to whom I won’t link just telephoned Andrew Zimbalist and basically transcribed Zimbalist’s dication and called it a blog post.

So many writers who are so intelligent on sports topics seem to have a blind spot when it comes to Olympic hosting. It is bad for readers and it is worse for our collective knowledge about these big-scale events.

The key to remember is this: over the last 35 years, every Olympics hosted by large, financially-strong democracies turned out to be a fiscal or public visibility success, while every Olympics hosted by smaller nations and dictatorships has turned out to be a boondoggle.

Go nation by nation and you will see the twin differences between Olympic hosting nations:

Large Democracies, all Top 30 in GDP:

  • United States (Lake Placid 1980, Los Angeles 1984, Atlanta 1996, Salt Lake City 2002)
  • Canada (Calgary 1988, Vancouver 2010)
  • South Korea (Seoul 1988)
  • France (Albertville 1992)
  • Spain (Barcelona 1992)
  • Norway (Lillehammer 1994)
  • Japan (Nagano 1998, though admittedly the Japanese spent too much)
  • Australia (Sydney 2000)
  • Italy (Torino 1996)
  • United Kingdom (London 2012)

Were there a few white elephants here and there? Sure. But nearly every single Games listed here can be categorized as a success either financially or for worldwide public perception of the host, especially with the United States earning a profit on each of its last three Olympics.

Now, for the Olympic hosts that the smart people point at and shout, “We don’t need this!”

Smaller Nations and Dictatorships:

  • Soviet Union/Russia (Moscow 1980, Sochi 2014)
  • Former Yugoslavia (Sarajevo 1984)
  • Greece (Athens 2004)
  • China (Beijing 2008)

Aye, here be boondoggles. In Sarajevo and Athens, too-small countries built too many sports venues they had no use for. In Beijing and Sochi, de facto dictatorships spent tens of billions of dollars on vanity projects in the guise of a “coming out party” for their respective nations.

Los Angeles Olympic Surplus

The L.A. Olympics earned a $232.5 million surplus, much of which is still used to support youth sports in the city.

Those styles are not how the United States has hosted, or will host, the Olympic Games.

A Boston Olympics will be a financial success for two reasons:

  1. The venue plan will use almost entirely existing or temporary venues in a compact area of the city, reducing costs of both stadium construction and transportation infrastructure
  2. Any U.S. Olympics comes with the billions of dollars in backing from American sponsors and American sports fans, part of a nation that is still the world’s strongest economy

If it sounds simple, that’s because it is. The biggest variations in spending between Olympic Games come from how much it costs to build arenas and transit infrastructure (which, keep in mind, will benefit Bostonians long after the Games). And the biggest variations in revenue come from how much the private sector spends on everything surrounding the Games.

I am willing to wager a Boston Olympics (like previous U.S. Games) will earn a profit, especially if you add a nickel for every time an opponent says the phrase “Big Dig.”

But I also understand other concerns, unrelated to cost, surrounding a Boston Games. I’m a taxpayer just like you. So let’s address those concerns:

Boston From Above 2024 Olympics

On the positive side, the Big Dig created the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, a gorgeous park that could be the center of Olympic celebrations. (Hellogreenway/Wikimedia Commons)

“It’s the Big Dig on a bigger scale!” — It is right and just to question Massachusetts’ ability to keep to an infrastructure budget after its largest project spiraled absurdly out of control. The Big Dig ultimately cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars when costs ballooned to 50 times the Commonwealth’s original estimates.

All I can say to that, without a degree in urban planning, is past results do not indicate future performance. And if there is something to be said about learning from the past, Massachusetts leaders will be much more careful in determining what Boston needs beyond the Games and what the true costs will be.

— “Traffic! Oh my stars, the traffic!” — Flash back to Los Angeles in July 1984, just before the city was set to host the Games:

“Superimposing a prolonged event with the scope of this summer’s Olympics over a city already notorious for its jammed freeways has nightmarish implications,” as the words appeared in the International Magazine on Transportation in Cities. “Since planning for the 1984 Games began five years ago, transportation-both for Olympic spectators and the region’s daily commuters-has emerged as one of the Games’ monumental problems.”

As it turned out, Los Angeles was never less congested than it was during the Olympics.

People either left town before the Games or stayed home. Workers carpooled or took the bus. Commercial trucks made their deliveries at night instead of during peak hours. Call it “Olympic Fever” as L.A. banded together.

“[Traffic] simply never materialized, especially on the 405 that led to the Westside and to UCLA, a major Olympic site,” wrote Erin Aubry Kaplan. “It was astonishing to me to travel north down the freeway from Inglewood and make it into Westwood with no obstruction.”

Ironically, the very people who are most concerned about Olympic traffic will be the ones who ensure it will be no trouble at all.

— “I just don’t like the Olympics as much as I like exclamation points!” — Well I can’t help you there. Whether you think of the Games as an overreach of cultural imperialism, a brand extension of international conglomerates, or you just can’t get down with Korean badminton scandals, the Olympics just aren’t everyone’s jam.

But they are many billions of people’s jams. The Olympics are the world’s most-watched multi-sport event. The London Olympics were the most-watched event in American TV history, and that was in a time zone five hours ahead of the East Coast. Boston would gather the same massive audiences that fell in love with Barcelona, Lillehammer and Sydney.

Fenway Park Baseball Olympics

In an upcoming column, I’ll present my proposal to re-do the Olympic baseball tournament. Because if Fenway Park doesn’t host baseball during the Games… oh man.

The International Olympic Committee has learned from the excesses of Athens, Beijing and Sochi, and it is changing its ways. Last month, IOC members unanimously adopted Olympic Agenda 2020, which (among other improvements) support sustainable, flexible and transparent hosting of the Games, as well as working to contain the cost and complexity for host cities.

Put more simply: the folks running the Olympics are well aware the costs have sometimes been outrageous, and they’re actively working to make sure that doesn’t happen anymore.

I support Boston’s bid to bring the Olympics back to the United States. I hope you do too.

Continue to be skeptical. Continue to be watchdogs that the Games are hosted in the right fashion. If you’re as big a nerd as me, you can read the PDF of Boston’s special commission report to guide you.

But I ask you act with the knowledge that Boston’s Olympic plan is one of the smartest I’ve ever seen, and that the leaders are putting together a bid that would almost certainly be a solid financial success. They could indeed put together the best Games ever, and that is something worthy of championing.

Traveling to Your Television Screen in 3… 2… 1…

“We just don’t recognize life’s most significant moments while they’re happening.” — Dr. Archibald “Moonlight” Graham, Field of Dreams

I am fortunate to say that Moonlight Graham was wrong. When I look back on my life’s most significant moments, I knew they were happening. You know those moments? Have you felt them? When your hands are shaking and you want to cry and you feel eternal.

I felt it when I got my acceptance package from USC. Felt it when I found out I would be working at the London Olympics. Felt it when each of my sisters was getting married. And I am privileged to feel it again.

I’m delighted to tell you all that I will soon begin as a video journalist for WKBN-TV in Youngstown, Ohio. I have been working since I was 12 years old to get to say these words: I am going to be a television reporter.


A few details about my first full-time job…

  • I am over the moon that I will be working less than one hour from my home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, my heaven on Earth. When I started seeking out jobs, I never thought I would be able to find an on-air gig so close to Pittsburgh. But I found it. If you believe in God, thank Him. If you believe in gratitude, thank the forces that make such wonderful things possible.Even more than being on television, it means everything to me that I get to remain so close to family, to friends and to a certain someone. It also means that I get to tell the stories of people with whom I have a rapport: the good folks of Northeast Ohio. They are my neighbors, soon to be my friends. I can’t wait to meet them all.
  • Before you ask, no, this is not a sports job. Sister station WYTV does have a sports segment, which I have already contributed to and am sure I will again. This is a news job, and I am just as excited about taking it on as I would for a sports job. I am a journalist first and a sports guy second.
  • I will be moving to Boardman, Ohio, just south of Youngstown and close to the station. However, you Pittsburghers won’t be able to get rid of me that easily. I will still be within a 60-minute drive of the ‘Burgh, and I will be back home often for games, concerts, shows and just to quell any homesickness. Nothing changes on that end.

So here we go. I feel absolutely wonderful that my professional goals are on track, and I am ready to get started telling stories in the Youngstown area.

If you want to follow what I am doing at WKBN, you can follow me on Facebook or on Twitter.

Already follow me on Twitter and are not interested in the goings-on in Northeast Ohio? Don’t worry, my Twitter feed will still be mostly covering sports and silly musings (this is either good or bad, depending on how you feel about my current tweets). WKBN is paying me to do TV news, not to tweet. Good decision by them.

If you live in the Mahoning Valley, please drop me a line at Whether you have a story idea or just want to grab a drink, I would love to hear from you.

The dream starts now…

My Top 100 Songs of 2014: In Which the Author May Like Paramore a Bit Too Much

18,885 minutes. Or 314.75 hours. Or more than 13 straight days.

That’s how much time I have spent in 2014 listening to music on Spotify. How do I know? They told me.

The streaming music service launched a Year In Review web app this week that not only spotlights the most-played artists and songs of the year, but also gives Spotify users data about their own listening habits.

You can find out your own stats by clicking to Spotify’s site here. But what follows is my own navel-gazing. Or it’s Spotify placing a mirror in front of my navel and commanding, “You there! Gaze upon it!”

How can I resist?

1. The Author does not stray from his beloved genres — Rock, Pop and Pop Punk


Somehow this adds up to 102 percent. Huh? Classifications? Rounding? Spotify… do you even math?

Yep, those are pretty much my music tastes.

I am a Pittsburgher; all of us citizens are lobotomized at birth and have important sections in our brain replaced with a small boombox tuned to 102.5 WDVE classic rock. I cannot deny my city-instilled love for it.

I’m not sure how Spotify classifies each genre, but I do listen to a lot of pop and alternative rock beyond my classic rock roots, so the numbers are accurate enough.

2. The Author will make no secret of his adoration for Paramore

Of my 100 most-listened-to songs of the year, 13 come from the instruments of the alternative band Paramore. Which, yep.

Paramore is a great popish-punkish band, and in my heart I am a middle school girl, so I have a natural attraction to their music. Seeing Paramore live in Anaheim was perhaps the best show I’ve attended in my 14 years on Earth, and I would jump at the chance to see them again.

If you have waved off Hayley Williams and Paramore as only for teenage girls like myself, I would urge you to give them another try.

Do you lean more to punk and rock? Go with their second album “RIOT!” Bigger into Pop and Top 40? Check out their most recent self-titled album. Then we’ll discuss.

3. The Author does not only listen to Paramore, ya putz

According to Spotify, I do in fact hear other songs in my life and do not simply skip them to get back to that sweet, sweet Paramore goodness.

They even cobbled together a chart of my 10-most-listened to songs.


Ol’ JimJam listened to these songs the most often this year.

Other stats they gave? I listen to Spotify most often on Mondays (averaging 2 hours in the day) and Fridays (which is when I do a lot of Lyft driving and listen through my phone). I also use the service 46% of the time on my computer and 54% through my phone (again, Lyft driving). This is the kind of user-data gathering I appreciate, as long as you clue me into it.

4. The Author’s other tastes run the pop-rock gamut

Here were the other artists that appeared more than once on my 100-most-listened-to songs:

  • The Black Keys
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Calvin Harris
  • Hall & Oates
  • Ellie Goulding
  • Elton John
  • Grouplove
  • Mumford & Sons
  • Panic At The Disco
  • Paul McCartney
  • Vampire Weekend
  • The White Stripes

Spotify even put together a little list of my five most-listened-to artists. How sweet of ’em.

My Most-Listened-To Artists -- I honestly couldn't have told you what Grouplove looked like before I saw this picture.

My Most-Listened-To Artists — I honestly couldn’t have told you what Grouplove looked like before I saw this picture.

5. You, the Reader, can partake in the Author’s mediocre tastes!

Spotify is kind enough to spit out your 100-most-listened-to songs into a playlists so that friends (or enemies!) can plug your favorite tunes straight into their earholes.

So go ahead. What follows is the playlist Spotify created from my listening habits. These were the songs that entered my brain in the year of our Lord 2014. Enjoy them before 2015 comes around and kicks them the hell out.


Also, hell yes I listened to the Frozen soundtrack a lot. It’s dope.

How the Pirates Should Spend Their Russell Martin Money

Pittsburgh Pirates potential free agents

Russell Martin is gone. But perhaps for the Pittsburgh Pirates he is gone for the better.

Russell Martin leaves PiratesThe Pirates offered Martin a four-year contract to stay in the ‘Burgh, according to Travis Sawchik of the Tribune-Review, and I must think it was in the area of the Cubs’ $64 million offer to the departed catcher.

So it goes. Baseball is a zero sum game — chalk it up as a plus for the 2015 Blue Jays and a minus for the 2015 Pirates.

But then the Bucs can turn the crisis into opportunity.

Let’s get into the mind of general manager Neal Huntington and spend $64 million a different way. Let’s make the 2015 team better and ensure the future of the team is strong. Let’s diversify our portfolio.

What do the Pirates need? Mostly pitching and help at first base. In order to get an accurate view of our money, we’ll use the always-pretty-good crowdsourced (CS) contract projections from FanGraphs, adjusting them up or down a million or two as I see fit.

Start with the, um, starters…

Continue reading

Parking and Traffic for New Pitt Stadium? No Problem (Part III)

If you’re new to this series, please check out Part I (discussing my two-stadium solution for Pitt football) and Part II (my concept for the new stadium in the middle of Oakland).

Okay, you all caught up? Let’s move on to parking and traffic. How exciting!

Currently, Pitt sells 10,000 student season tickets to its home schedule at Heinz Field. Let’s bump that up to 13,000 at New Pitt Stadium, since part of our purpose is to improve the football experience for students. That leaves 28,000 seats for the general public.

Okay, some back-of-the-envelope math as to how we are going to get all these people to a Saturday game.

  • 11,000 students walking from campus
  • 2,000 students driving (hey, Pitt kids often go home for the weekend)
  • 6,000 public fans walking/transit/biking/taxi
  • 22,000 public fans driving

If you tack on 1,000 extra people driving and parking (staff and gameday workers), that means New Pitt Stadium will need parking spaces for about 25,000 people.

Only counting the 25 largest lots and garages, the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University and UPMC own more than 10,000 parking spaces within one mile of my proposed New Pitt Stadium.

Here is where the math gets easy:

Could it really be that easy? Yes and no. The parking exists to support New Pitt Stadium, the issue is how much event parking Pitt would be able to access. Let’s dive in deeper:

Pitt- and CMU-owned parking


The stadium site is in green and blue. The largest Pitt and CMU lots/garages are in red. UPMC lots/garages are in purple.

If you’re running a university, you need far fewer parking spaces on a Saturday than you need Monday through Friday. Obviously. Students and professors and staff and all that.

We also want to ensure football cars don’t take up spots on the street and in smaller lots. Businesses and other institutions still operate on Saturdays in Oakland, and they need their own spots for patrons, employees and residents.

Luckily for us, the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon have built plenty of parking for their weekday needs. Counting only the 16 largest garages and lots between the two schools, there are 5,400 parking spaces available in Oakland within one mile of New Pitt Stadium.

For example, New Pitt Stadium would be directly next to the 934-space Soldiers & Sailors Garage, one of the largest parking garages in the city (attention: boosters and donors), and a 7-minute walk from CMU’s 328-space Dithridge Garage. You know the big CMU garage on Forbes Avenue, next to the football field? That one has 822 spaces, about a 15-minute walk or short shuttle ride to the stadium.

Already, I’m impressed. Pitt and CMU already own more than 5,400 spaces within walking distance of the stadium, compared to the mere 2,000 walking-distance spaces Tulane has available for its new stadium. In all, Pitt and CMU own or lease 7,800 spots in Oakland, according to the university’s recent master plans.

Under my plan, Pitt would need only to construct one new parking garage: a 500-spot garage to replace some of the spots lost to the stadium site. Perhaps the garage could be build on the Panther Hollow lot (already home to 108 spaces).

Now let’s scare up some more spots from UPMC.

Hospital Garages

UPMC’s 10 largest parking garages/lots in Oakland make up 5,000 spaces. The Presbyterian and Montefiore garages alone have more than 2,000 parking spots, and UPMC is planning to add 900 more spots to those garages by 2023.

Let’s make an assumption here: UPMC will soon have about 6,000 parking spaces in Oakland. Can Pitt reserve 2,600 of those spaces for event parking five Saturdays every year? Can they reserve 500 spaces of the new 1,500-space garage at the VA Hospital? Let’s say so and add those in.

Among Pitt-, CMU- and UPMC-owned parking facilities, we have reserved about 9,000 event parking spaces within walking distance of the stadium. But there are more out there.

Day-of-Sale Shuttle Garages

Because Tulane had so few on-campus parking spots available for their new stadium, their parking plan required 8,600 park-and-ride lots for fans, mostly in the university-owned pediatric hospital north of New Orleans and the Superdome.

New Tulane Stadium

Tulane also had to fit its new on-campus stadium (Capacity: 30,000) into a tight spot in a busy neighborhood.

Pitt won’t need so many park-and-ride spots. But the university should reserve such spots for out-of-town fans who did not reserve parking in advance. Parking these fans outside of Oakland and shuttling them in would reduce traffic in Oakland on game days.

For instance, directing Parkway East and West drivers could be directed to the Pittsburgh Technology Center garage (470 spaces) and Second Avenue lot (253 spaces) south of campus and take a 10-minute shuttle ride to the stadium.

And even though I hate to say it, the best park-and-ride lot for drivers from the north would be… Heinz Field. Maybe Pitt alums feeling nostalgic for the bus rides from campus to the North Shore can park there and hop aboard.

Again, not many park-and-ride lots are needed, given our plan of 8,500 event parking spaces near campus. But if a game sells out, it may behoove out-of-town fans to leave their car off campus instead of battling gameday traffic on the streets of Oakland.

What About the Traffic?

Four policies will do a lot of good to reduce traffic in Oakland on football game Saturdays.

1. Fans must purchase their spot in advance to park in a Pitt, CMU or UPMC garage.


Large print on parking passes allow staffers to direct drivers more easily to their garage.

From the Tulane stadium traffic study:

“The best solution for eliminating traffic in the surrounding neighborhoods is to adopt a policy of no cash parking in and around campus, period. Force all parkers to pre-purchase their parking ahead of time and anyone else should be pushed out to the park-and-ride lots.”

Such a policy would reduce the number of cars cruising for cash parking garages — there would be none. If Pitt mails free permits to donors and urges other season-ticket holders to purchase their spots before the season, thousands of fans will drive into Oakland with no doubt as to their parking destination.

2. Free transit passes for fans who purchase advance tickets.

Pitt and CMU already provide free transit passes for their students — both a perk for students and a policy that reduces traffic and parking shortages in Oakland.

The same plan can work with fans. When Pitt mails tickets to season-ticket holders and advanced purchasers, include a free transit pass good for the day of the game. If that fan lives near a bus line that can take him into Oakland, it’s a chance for him to travel to the game without having to pay for parking.

3. Include specific directions on the parking passes.

Give fans turn-by-turn directions to their garage. Tell them: ignore your GPS, this is the best way to go.

Give fans turn-by-turn directions to their garage. Tell them: ignore your GPS, this is the best way to go.

This again is from the Tulane plan. They included turn-by-turn directions from the fan’s address to their parking spot, optimized to reduce congestion on streets near the stadium.

“This will greatly reduce confusion, and the ‘circulating’ traffic, creating a more smooth ingress and egress,” the plan read.

If fans follow the directions instead of their GPS, they will spend less time on the road and clogging up busy intersections.

4. Plan events several hours before and after the game.

Pitt should try to reduce the amount of traffic in the hour before kickoff and the hour directly after the end of the game.

Let’s take this Saturday for example. Say Pitt were playing Georgia Tech on campus for homecoming instead of at Heinz Field. For a 3:30 kickoff, the goal should be to get as many fans on campus as possible by 1:30 p.m. and in the stadium by 3:00 p.m. (we want to be mindful of foot traffic in and out of the stadium too).

Pitt could offer family tailgates, fan fests and band performances on campus as early as 11:00 a.m. Then inside the stadium, early-arriving fans can get discounts on food and Pitt merchandise to encourage folks to be in the building by 3:00 p.m.

Give Pitt fans an all-day football experience and lower congestion.

Give Pitt fans an all-day football experience and lower congestion.

After the game, partner bars and restaurants can offer food and drink deals to Pitt ticket holders (subsidized by the university) in order to keep fans from immediately rushing to the parking garage and causing traffic congestion in the streets.

Offering fans the opportunity to enjoy a full day on campus, as well as reducing congestion on game day? That’s a win-win, and it would help create the fun atmosphere and buzz that building an on-campus stadium is all about.

Of course, this is all a plan for the year 2014. Maybe the future will make a New Pitt Stadium easier to plan for. The mythic Spine Line rail expansion between Downtown and Oakland could become reality. Some brainy CMU student could come up with a new driverless transportation system that would make event parking unnecessary. Who knows what the future will bring?

We’ll wrap this all up tomorrow as Part IV examines how other schools have paid for new stadiums over the last decade. Until then, I leave you with a quote from the company that performed the traffic study for Tulane, a school that also had citizens concerned about neighborhood congestion and lack of parking for an on-campus football stadium.

“In short, we do see some associated risks with the plans and operation of the stadium and campus at this time,” the study for Tulane read. “But none of them are insurmountable by any means.”

Not insurmountable? That’s good enough for me.