Walk around town these days and you’re just about as likely to see someone sporting a Pittsburgh Pirates T-shirt as you are someone in Steelers garb.
Much of the Bucos team gear has been purchased this season as the Pirates won more games than they lost for the first time in 21 years and won back the hearts of fans that can’t remember the last time they had a reason to cheer on the home team in September.
On Monday night, the Pirates could clinch their first playoff berth in more than two decades. It's not yet clear if the North Shore will host any baseball in October, but even if the Pirates lose a one-game playoff in Cincinnati, local businesses and tax coffers will have reaped the benefits of a successful home baseball season.
There are no statistics yet on merchandise sales, but ticket sales for the Pirates this year hit 2.2 million, which is a nearly a 40 percent increase over 2009.
Pittsburgh transportation group president Jamie Campolongo has noticed.
“For years we kinda ignored the Pirates because ... we ignored the Pirates," he said. "They didn’t impact our business much, and now with the success they’re having we’ve had to plan for Pirates games, so it’s really been a boon.”
Campolongo makes sure he has every cab on the street on nights when the Pirates are in town, and he said the charter side of the business, including trips to and from the airport has doubled.
It’s no surprise to the Pirates that the airport traffic has increased. The team reports 19 percent of ticket sales this year has gone to addresses more than 100 miles from the Golden Triangle.
That has kept the city’s hotels hopping.
“Definitely we have seen an increase,” said Connie Breen, Residence Inn North Shore manager. “We are selling more rooms on nights during the week where we might not have sold as many rooms in the past.”
For most home games in the last half of the season it has been hard to find a room near PNC Park, and those visitors are not just staying on the North Shore.
“Surprisingly it’s less stuff back and forth to the North Shore, because most people are staying in town and they walk that,” Campolongo said. “So we get a lot of activity that’s moving about the city, taking people to dinner, taking people to the Strip District and moving people around the city, up to Mount Washington, things like that.”
There are no official numbers yet from the city on tax collections other than to say revenues are on the rise.
Whenever the Steelers or the Penguins begin a playoff run, Visit Pittsburgh offers an economic impact estimate. However, a spokesperson said the organization is unlikely to issue one for the Pirates because it has simply been so long since the Pirates have played in the post season that no one in the office knows how to calculate the number.
For Breen, the dollars only tell half the story anyway.
“The fans have been great," she said. "Everybody is happy, (everybody) wants to have fun. They’re here to see the Pirates.”
If the Pirates host the National League Wild Card game it would be held Oct. 2. The division series would begin the next day.
Playoff tickets for those games can be found on line starting at $51. The cab ride is extra.