Steelers Make Right Call on Heinz Field Expansion

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2014 off season has been among the busiest on record. The team was uncharacteristically aggressive in free agency. Management also kept the faithful on their toes with a 2014 draft defined by size,speed and surprise.

The impact of the Steelers free agent wheeling and dealing won’t be known until September and the full measure of the Steelers 2014 draft can only be taken in 2016 or so. But there is one move Steelers management made this spring that is unequivocally the right one:

  • Agreeing to expand Heinz Field without leaving the Allegheny County taxpayers on the hook.

As Steel Curtain Rising has editorialized before, expanding Heinz Field is a good idea and one the Steelers should pay for. Expanding Heinz Field is a smart move simply because while the NFL’s revenue pie might be growing, there’s no guarantee that the Steelers piece of pie will grow in proportion.

  • Steelers Nation tends to think of Heinz Field as “new” but it is this will be its 14th year in operation, or as old as Three Rivers Stadium was in 1984.

And while Heinz Field is the newest facility in the AFC North, with the Ravens, Browns, and Bengals abodes having opened in 1998, 1999, and 2000, the Ravensrevenue bests the Steelers to the tune of 26 million dollars a year, and both Baltimore and Cincinnati are more profitable.

Why the Steelers Should Pay (Again)

But if the business case is plain to see for expanding Heinz Field, it is equally obvious that the people of Allegheny County shouldn’t pick up the bill.

  • The Rooneys are not like the Daniel Snyders or Jerry Joneses of the NFL.

Their wealth is tied up in the Steelers, and they do not have the non-football income streams to finance a new stadium. That was the argument they made in getting Pennsylvania to build Heinz Field. It made sense then, but in Heinz Field gives the Steelers a platform for raising the revenues they need for stadium improvements.

  • For a while there, it seemed like the Steelers didn’t see it that way.

The Steelers of course went to court trying to force the public to finance the expansion, which was a sad spectacle. While Steel Curtain Rising has no proof of this, it’s interesting to note that the decision to take the case to court began while Dan Rooney was still serving as ambassador of Ireland, and the choice to settle outside the courts was made after his return.

  • Is this Dan Rooney’s influence at work?

Steel Curtain Rising has no information to answer that question. If the answer is yes, then that speaks well of the Patriarch of Steelers Nation and offers cause for concern about the direction the team’s stewardship may take when Rooney moves on to his heavenly reward.

Technically speaking, the Steelers aren’t financing the expansion themselves, they’re passing the cost on to ticket buyers in the form of a 1 dollar surcharge. While that might not be the most fan friendly thing to do, the Steelers are hardly the first business to pass capital expansion costs off to the customer.

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