With the rise of Internet ticket sites, few people buy tickets from scalpers in person anymore. But prices online are pretty inflated, and if you don't mind rolling the dice, you can often get a much better bargain outside the stadiums.
Finding a guy with an "I need tickets" sign isn't as easy as it used to be. Some scalp- -- uh, we mean "resellers" -- are licensed, but they are restricted to areas Downtown, mostly at the entrances to various bridges connecting to the North Side. A few years ago, Pittsburgh City Council created a ticket-reselling zone between the city's two North Side stadiums. Within that area -- located at Tony Dorsett Way and North Shore Drive -- anyone can buy or sell tickets without fear … provided they do so at face value.
But not everyone plays by the rules. And while much of the area around the stadiums is a "no-scalping zone," at several Heinz Field events last season, scalpers were prevalent right outside of the gates.
Here are four tips for getting tickets:
1. Be patient. The worst thing that can happen to a scalper is to end up with tickets after the game has started -- or worse yet, when it ends. Prices will be high at 10 a.m., but if you're disciplined, you can get a great deal by holding out until 1:15 in the afternoon.
2. Know where you're sitting. If you're going to the game without a ticket, print out a detailed seating chart from the team's Web site. Don't be afraid to reference it while you buy.
3. Don't get hosed on your own tickets. If you're trading up -- giving up cheap seats and cash for better seats -- you'll find most scalpers will offer half (or less) the face value of your ticket. Hold out for 75 percent. And if you are just selling, never sell to a scalper; you won't even get face value. Sell to a fan, where you'll make your money back -- or even earn a little profit.
4. Trust your gut. Some fake tickets are hard to spot. But if it feels like a hoax -- the ticket seems thin, the cut on the ticket is crooked, the printing seems smeared -- it most likely is.
The availability of parking often depends on the event that you are attending.
For a Pirates game, if you don't mind parking Downtown and walking across the Roberto Clemente Bridge, you can usually park for as little as $5. But often there is ample (if more expensive) parking within a few blocks of PNC Park.
Parking for hockey games can be a bit more difficult. There are surface lots near Mellon Arena in the Uptown area, though space can be tight. There's generally plenty of parking just a few blocks into the Downtown corridor.
Steelers games are a different animal all together. Most of the lots around the stadium are permit-only, and fill with tailgaters early. (If you can participate, bear in mind the Holy Eucharist of Pittsburgh tailgating: kielbasa, pierogies and Iron City.)
You can skip the mess all together and park farther up on the North Side, where private lots seem to rule the day. (Street parkers should beware the wrath of Allegheny West residents, however.) Or you can head for less stressful environs -- Downtown and Station Square. From Station Square, you can always hop aboard the Gateway Clipper Fleet and have your inebriated self dropped off just a few steps from Heinz Field. There are also water taxis that will carry you to the stadium from the Mon Wharf.
Finally, consider mass transit. The Port Authority is busily extending its light-rail system to connect the stadiums with Downtown, saving fans the arduous experience of walking hundreds of yards. But until that work is done, the Port Authority's usual scarce Sunday service is augmented by game-day "Steelers Shuttles" connecting with Downtown lots. There's also special express service to suburban malls. Check www.portauthority.org for information.