It’s become a rite of June that a mammoth country concert comes to Heinz Field. For the last couple of years, Kenny Chesney was the headliner. This past Saturday, Luke Bryan topped the bill.
Unfortunately, some concertgoers seem to feel it’s their right at these extravaganzas, after having paid what was surely no small sum for tickets, to set up camp in the parking lots surrounding the stadium hours beforehand, get well and thoroughly inebriated, and thoughtlessly dump their trash on the concrete for someone else to clean up. In 2013, the “morning after” photographs and video footage around Heinz Field were shocking, like something you would see in the most dire corners of the Third World, or following a natural disaster.
From most accounts, the aftermath this time around was better, but only somewhat so. There was still boorish behavior aplenty, with mountains of refuse in parking lots and surrounding neighborhoods. Some considerate souls threw their garbage in the Allegheny River. Local television newscasts and YouTube were awash in images of intoxicated concertgoers stumbling around and embarrassing themselves. According to the Associated Press, 150 emergency calls related to the concert were received by law enforcement officials, who broke up 15 fights, made 70 arrests and took 34 people to the hospital.
What is it about these shows at the Steelers’ home that inspires such bacchanalia? Other acts, from U2 to Taylor Swift, have played the same venue without much in the way of incident, and their fans were apparently capable of coming and going without leaving a trail of debris in their wake. In part, the concerts by neither of those acts were preceded by hours of tailgating. And, after swallowing all that alcohol, a mob mentality can take over where it suddenly becomes OK to litter and conduct oneself in a crude, ill-mannered fashion.
To paraphrase Kevin Acklin, the chief of staff for Pittsburgh’s mayor Bill Peduto, the behavior of many of the 50,000 people attending the Luke Bryan concert was disgraceful.
And the mayor’s office is now looking at ways to make concert promoters and organizers of other large-scale events bear the cost for cleanup and public safety costs. That is not an unreasonable request. Officials said city taxpayers will ultimately have to fork over tens of thousands of dollars to cover overtime and other costs related to the Bryan concert. Why should they have to lighten their wallets when most were not even within shouting distance of the show?
Furthermore, the opening time for parking lots could be pushed back to reduce the amount of tailgating, and access by boaters could be curtailed. Peduto’s office pointed out that in Cleveland and Philadelphia, concert promoters are required to have their own cleanup crews. A surcharge could also end up being placed on tickets for concerts within Pittsburgh to cover municipal expenses.
It will drive up the already inflated price that’s attached to concert attendance nowadays. But if any complaints are registered by the buffoons who hurled aside their beer bottles or pizza boxes at Heinz Field Saturday thinking, what the heck, let someone else take care of it, they will have only themselves to blame.