John Steigerwald's Sports Column
Steelers want to stick taxpayers with tab for stadium improvements
Let’s take up a collection for the Steelers.
Actually, the Steelers think that Allegheny County and the city of Pittsburgh should take up a collection from the taxpayers and make them pay for 3,000 more seats, a new scoreboard and a new video control room at Heinz Field. They filed a suit against the Sport & Exhibition authority because the SEA doesn’t buy the argument that the Steelers’ lease entitles them to the $40 million it would take to pay for everything that the Steelers want. The Steelers claim the lease requires the SEA to pay for capital improvements, and the SEA says the things that the Steelers want don’t qualify as capital improvement.
Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Joseph M. James, who is, of course, a Steelers season-ticket holder, said he would rule on the issue within a week and set a trial date for Dec. 4.
Mark Hart, the Steelers’ director of planning and development, released a statement saying, “The expansion of Heinz Field will allow an opportunity for more Steelers fans to attend games. It is unfortunate that it has come to this after negotiating with the SEA for months. If this matter is not resolved in the near future, another year of increased fan attendance and increased tax revenue will be lost.”
See, the Steelers are doing this for you.
They’re pushing hard to get more seats so that you have a chance to go to a game, and they want to produce more tax revenue for you. They just want the fine citizens of Allegheny County to pay for them.
Don’t blame the Steelers for trying to find out if elected officials were actually dumb enough to make them right in their money grab. They would be idiots to pay for it themselves if they are legally entitled to money confiscated from other people, many of whom couldn’t name a player on the Steelers’ roster.
The Steelers are taking advantage of their outrageous popularity and the politicians, and much of the media seem to be cowering because of it. Have the local TV stations made any attempt to get Art Rooney II to explain why his billion-dollar license to print money deserves more money from the taxpayers? Have they shown half the interest in getting this story that they would show if news got out that Troy Polamalu got a haircut?
I don’t know. I’m asking, but I highly doubt it, based on past performance.
If Allegheny County is going to hand out $40 million, how about giving a million dollars to 40 entrepreneurs who want to start a new business?
You know, a business that didn’t just sign a billion-dollar deal with Verizon last week as the NFL did.
Or how about throwing $40 million from the top of the USX Tower to put more money in the taxpayers pockets?
Is there an elected official out there who is willing to make a huge stink about this and be critical of the Rooney family?
I know. Stupid question.
Here’s a prediction for the people of Allegheny County: You will be buying new seats and a new scoreboard for the Steelers. It’s only a matter of time.
• Ray Shero blames the players for the humiliating sweep of the Penguins by the Boston Bruins. As general manager, Shero had to decide whether the pathetic performance in the Eastern Conference championship series was a result of bad coaching or poor execution. He answered that by giving his coach, Dan Bylsma, a two-year contract extension.
Give Shero credit for not going with the popular decision. It would have been easy to fire Bylsma. By signing him and his assistants to extensions, Shero is tying his future to his faith in them.
It’s hard to believe that Mario Lemieux is going to have the patience for another other postseason unraveling next spring.
• Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder says he will never change the name of his team. Letters from 10 congressmen were sent to him, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the other 31 teams asking the NFL to change the name because it’s offensive to many Native Americans. Goodell sent letters to the congressmen saying that the name “represented a positive meaning” and the league had no intention of changing the name.
There is debate among Native American groups about whether it’s offensive, with many saying the name shouldn’t be changed.
Here’s another prediction for you: The NFL team in Washington, D.C., will not be called the Redskins five years from now.
• Some in the media were critical of Pirates fans for not showing up Tuesday night in large enough numbers for the debut of Pirates super pitching prospect Gerrit Cole. The walkup sale was estimated at about 8,000. The website Fangraphs did a little research and determined that the only pitching prospect who generated more sales was Stephen Strasburg of the Washington Nationals in June, 2010. Let’s not forget that the Pirates have stunk for 20 years. They’ve had plenty of prospects who have flamed out. Despite their good start this season, they are still lucky that anybody pays to see them play.
John Steigerwald writes a weekly column for the Observer-Reporter.