PNG Field’s OF seats to be covered

Seating capacity will decrease for Curve games at Peoples Natural Gas Field this season as the franchise plans to cover some of the outfield bleacher seats with advertising signs.

The ballpark’s capacity has been 7,210, but that number will drop to 6,650, general manager Derek Martin said.

The outfield bleacher seats are predominantly empty for most of the team’s 71 home games, leading to the decision to cover some of them. Additionally, putting up advertising signs, which will be adorned with UPMC logos, creates additional revenue for the franchise.

“I like trying to really enhance the atmosphere at the ballpark,” said Martin, who’s in his first year as the GM.

When driving past the stadium on Interstate 99 during games, Martin pointed out, the first thing a person sees is so many empty seats in the left field bleachers. The new GM’s primary goal is to enhance the experience during games, so fans can expect to see changes this year and beyond.

“I was taught early on, in minor league baseball, you’re in the memory-making business,” Martin said. “Our goal all offseason is to think of new and creative ideas to keep it fresh.

“This is the 19th year, and every year you have to do things to change it around a little bit to spice it up.”

The Curve averaged 4,131 fans per game last season, the second-lowest figure in franchise history (ahead of only 4,116 in 2014). The average last year would have been closer to 4,300 if not for five weekend home dates that were rained out.

Martin said his goal this season is to get the average up to 4,600, which would be an 11 percent increase.

Another big difference at the ballpark this season will be in the stadium lighting. Just this week the Curve began installing LED lights, which will be brighter and, in case there’s a power outage, can be powered back up immediately instead of having to wait 15 minutes to come back on.

The ballpark lights had been below the standards set by the Eastern League for the past few years, so an improvement there was overdue.

There finally will be a new ticket office at the ballpark, replacing one that for many years had dealt with structural issues. It is expected to be complete by the start of the season in April.

There also will be new digital displays on the main concourse, bringing some of those areas up to date by posting daily lineups and other things. The Rail Kings seats in left field also will be updated.

“None of the things that are being done, it’s not being paid at all by the taxpayers,” Martin said. “These are privately funded.”

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