Expanding Heinz Field is a Good Idea. And One the Steelers Should Pay For….

Paul Brown is a millionaire and needs a 200 million dollar stadium to do his job and the city is going to pay for it. I make 15 thousand a year and need a pick up to do my job, but the city isn’t going to buy me a pickup….” Brother Bob Johns, Society of Mary, – 1996 in Cincinnati, Ohio

Bob Johns was a throwback, a man who joined a religious order out of high school and never looked back. He was a “worker brother” a craftsman skilled in plumbing, masonry, carpentry and just about any kind of home repair. Br. Bob worked with reckless abandon. He well into his 60’s when I knew him, yet as a “go to the gym 3 times a week” 24 year old I could barely keep up with him.

Bob was also from Pittsburgh. He wore a black and gold Steelers winter hat, much like the one I wore to school in 1st and 2nd grade after Super Bowl XIII and Super Bowl XIV. He looked and sounded like one of my grandfathers. And while his sarcastic wit could get taxing at times, Br. Bob did come up with gems of wisdom like the one above.

All of which brings us to the subject of this post.

The Pittsburgh Steelers vs. the Pittsburgh-Allegany County Sports Exhibition Authority

The Pittsburgh Steelers would like to expand Heinz Field to the tune of 3,000 more seats in the south end of the stadium.

Their logic if flawless – more seats = more tickets = more concessions = more money.

  • But there’s a catch.

The Steelers want the SEA to pay for it.

Not surprisingly, SEA is decidedly unenthusiastic about picking up the estimated 40 million dollar tab for the expansion.

  • So the two sides are resolving it fashionably – they’re taking the case to court.

As with any dispute, the devil hides in the details. The Steelers are fighting with the SEA over whether or not the Heinz Field Expansion counts as a capital improvement under the terms of their current lease.

You can read about the details from the Post-Gazette here. Not being a lawyer, it’s hard to say who is right in legal terms. However, if you use Br. Bob’s more mundane measures, the issue becomes much more clear.

Steelers Should Pay for Heinz Field Expansion

It’s hard to dispute Br. Bob’s point. Why should cities buy millionaires (or billionaires) the tools they need to do their job there are so many unmet health, housing, education and infrastructure needs.

  • In plain English, the Steelers need to foot the bill for the Heinz Field expansion.

Before proceeding, allow me to admit to some hypocrisy. I supported the use of public funds to build Heinz Field.

Heinz Field was a capital investment well beyond the Rooney’s means and the Steelers could not remain competitive in Three Rivers Stadium. The Steelers essentially rented Three Rivers from the Pirates and the revenue arrangement favored the Pirates by a lopsided margin.

True to their word, the Rooneys reinvested the newly money newly from Heinz Field into the roster, and Steelers Nation enjoyed victories in Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII and appeared in Super Bowl XLV as a result.

The same principle must apply to Heinz Field expansion – Western Pennsylvania provided the Steelers with the platform they needed to be economically viable, but it’s up to the Steelers to sustain that viability.

If they need the extra seating revenue that badly then why not make the investment themselves? Given the Steelers stable ticket buying base, there should be little mystery into how long it will take them to see a return on investment.

And to put the 40 million dollar figure into perspective, the Steelers have paid Willie Colon:

  • a restricted free agent tender of about 2.5 million in 2010
  • a six million dollar signing bonus in 2011
  • average salaries of 4.6 million dollars in 2011 and 2012

That’s approximately 13.1 million over paid to a single player who played in 13 games over 3 years. The math couldn’t be simpler. That’s 1 million dollars per game.

Steel Curtain Rising likes Willie Colon (when healthy.)

But if the Steelers can afford to pay Colon 1 million dollars per game, then they afford to invest 40 million dollars that they’ll recoup soon enough.

And, more to the point, I am sure Western PA’s police departments, fire engine squads, and schools could certain benefit from an injection of 40 million dollars.

Art Rooney II needs to get over himself on this one, and invest in his own facility.

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