Petersen Events Center Concerts – Is The Venue Worth It?

Last Updated on November 8, 2022 by Jeremy

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When it comes to concerts in Pittsburgh, many venues have regular shows throughout the year. Some spots, like the Petersen Events Center, host concerts less frequently as this particular venue is primarily used for Pitt basketball games first and foremost.

But clocking in at about 12,000 seats, the Petersen Events Center is a serious stadium (roughly 2/3 the size of PPG Paints Arena) and does attract star talent periodically. While stadium performances are not typically our favorite, we have to admit we loved our show at this particular spot (Billy Strings) and have some thoughts on where to sit, what to consider before visiting, and what to avoid!

So if you plan to attend a concert at the Petersen Events Center soon, keep these tips in mind!

Where Are the Best Seats for Petersen Events Center Concerts?

Concerts at the Petersen Events Center

For our Billy Strings concert, the arena was set up in an end-stage configuration such that floor seating was available (standing room general admission) and approximately 20% of the arena was blocked off behind the stage. 

Our seats for the show were in the lower deck, section 107, and in row F. While this sounds like it'd be the sixth row, in this particular section it ended up being the front row before a lower section (approximately ten feet below at court level and separated by a railing). 

This section is considered the club level for Pitt games (107-109 and 120-122 on the sidelines fall within this range) and surprised us for their plush cushioned seats and truly exceptional views (particularly for our row due to its orientation outlined above). We had no idea about these perks when we bought our tickets, and even if you can't score this row for a view, this section would be great for comfort when sitting- although we should note virtually everyone outside of the front rows stood during our entire performance.

  • Those in the lower section closer to the floor had regular, plastic chairs as far as we could tell and the first few rows were practically at arena level immediately next to people standing in general admission. As such, while they are effectively closer to the stage, there are some inherent drawbacks to these.

Concerts at the Petersen Events Center

On the sound side of things, we had very few complaints with this section of the arena for our show. Yes, the vocals got drowned out at times, but that was likely more due to band settings than the arena itself. That being said, we would probably shy away from upper-deck seats here, as they often aren't the best in any stadium, although we have to admit that the compactness of this arena makes most seats generally decent all around by view standards.

One weird quirk of this arena we noted during our show was that there were separate entrance lines for those who had seats and those who were entering for general admission. Floor access was only open at set locations, and there were no signs indicating which line was for which seating area. We saw many people wait in line and go through security only to get sent back out of the arena to do it all over again at a different gate. Thankfully the show started 15 minutes after the time on the ticket, but this felt like an annoyance that could've been avoided with a sign or three.

Eating and Drinking at the Petersen Events Center

Concerts at the Petersen Events Center

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As the Petersen Events Center is primarily designed as a college basketball arena, you should not get your hopes up too much regarding the eating and drinking options here as it is primarily limited to general concession-style foods.

During our 2022 show, foods like soft pretzels ($6), nachos ($7.75), and popcorn ($4.50) could be found at the smaller kiosks, and larger dishes like chicken tenders with fries ($9.50), hot dogs ($6), and more could be found at the permanent concession stands in addition to the rest.

On the drinks side of the spectrum, a bottle of water ran $4.00, domestic beer was $10 per pint (think Iron City or Yuengling), and craft beer was $13 per pint (Grist House and Levity were available during our show). 

While these prices were high, as most arena concessions are, they felt a bit more reasonable than other arenas in the city. That being said, short of getting a beer or water here you'll do well to simply eat in Oakland before the concert as the food options within walking distance of Petersen Events Center are far better. And if you do enjoy the concessions here, expect fairly long lines as well- every concession stand we walked by had a line about 10-20 people deep at all times when the show wasn't going on.

Parking and Other Amenities at Petersen Events Center

Concerts at the Petersen Events Center

Perhaps the single worst part about attending a show at the Petersen Events Center is that you have to go to Oakland outright. This neighborhood has a lot of restaurants and amenities, particularly tailored to college students, but becomes incredibly congested during an event such as a concert.

As such, while we would point out that there are parking garages within the immediate vicinity of the Petersen Events Center (such as the OC Lot on Allequippa Street, the PG Garage on O'Hara Street, or the Soldiers and Sailors Garage on Bigelow Blvd), if you attempted to drive close to any of these during our show you would've been met with intense gridlock and, more than likely, a completely full garage early in the evening.

Instead, if you want to park in a garage, we recommend parking in the Forbes Semple Garage at 210 Meyran Avenue. It is a city-operated garage often with a flat fee at night ($6 during our visit in 2022). While we normally see a “leases only” sign for this garage during the business day, we had no issue finding parking for a show about an hour ahead of time here. Even better was that the crowds thinned out substantially and we exited the garage with absolutely no wait (sadly, we then had to sit in traffic on Fifth Avenue for 15 minutes, but that isn't the garage's fault). So if you don't mind walking approximately five blocks slightly uphill, this would be a great parking option overall.

Otherwise, street parking can be hit or miss in Oakland only because the residential streets nearby are often utilized by students who may or may not move their cars at any appreciable frequency.

Overall, while arena shows are never really our favorite due to their size and risk of not getting a great seat, we have to admit we were pleased with the Petersen Events Center for this concert all around. That being said, a little strategy in buying your ticket (for those plush seats!) and advanced planning for parking and dining will go a long way to ensure you have the best night out for your show. When it comes down to it, a few annoyances like bad parking, getting stuck in traffic, or less-than-ideal food choices could really detract from your experience here!

The Petersen Events Center is located at 3719 Terrace Street in Oakland. 

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