By Andy Sheehan

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Since opening day, the empty seats at PNC Park have been hard to miss as throughout the first half of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ season, once-loyal fans stayed away away, in part to protest the trades of Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole.

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(Photo Credit: KDKA)

But recently, the Pirates are showing a pulse.

The team recently won 11 straight games and had its best attendance this past weekend, including a Saturday night sellout against the New York Mets.

Pirates President Frank Coonelly detects a turnaround both on and off the field.

“There is definitely momentum for this team. The city I think is starting to fall in love with some of these young players who make up the core of the team,” Coonelly said.

Still, attendance has been declining since 2015 when the team averaged more than 30,000 in attendance per game, dropping to 28,000 in 2016 to about 24,000 last year.

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But this year has been truly abysmal — 18,700 per game so far, which is down about almost 5,000 fans per game from last year.

Whether the fans return for the second half of the season will be predicated on winning and whether the Pirates can stay in the pennant hunt. That may very well require the spending of some cash.

KDKA-TV’s Andy Sheehan: “Will you be adding more players? Are you in the market to spend money to improve this team?”
Coonelly: “We’re not looking to sell.”

Coonelly says the team will likely be adding to its young core of future stars, like Austin Meadows, but won’t sacrifice any of those players for so-called two-month rentals to help them make the playoffs.

“But if we can have a two-month rental that will help us without mortgaging the future, we’re looking for those opportunities, and we’re really looking opportunities of players who can help us this year and in 2019 and 2020,” Coonelly said.

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Sheehan: “But you know that fans believe that there is a reluctance in this team to spend money. Are you reluctant to spend money?”
Coonelly: “Not at all. We are looking forward to investing in the team. We’ve invested in the team and we will continue to invest in this team.”