Businesses near St. Vincent College score with Steelers training camp
Businesses near St. Vincent College can feel comfortable anticipating a boost in business for a few weeks each summer as football-starved fans check out the team they hope to see hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in February.
With the Pittsburgh Steelers wrapping up their annual training camp, those restaurants, hotels and retailers will be getting back to business as usual.
“It's a huge boost. It's real nice for the entire community,” said John Huemme, owner of Sharky's Cafe on Route 30, about a two-mile drive from St. Vincent's Chuck Noll Field. “Not only Sharky's, but basically the entire area gets, I'd say, anywhere from a 30 to 50 percent boost in their sales or their attraction from outside customers. It's great for everybody.”
Some businesses make efforts to maximize the football-fueled foot traffic with special training camp promotions.
Sharky's and Dino's Sports Lounge sell their own training camp-themed shirts each summer.
Sharky's adds two menu items inspired by Steelers' two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger:
• The Roethlisburger — a behemoth sandwich creation featuring ground beef, sausage and egg, adorned with onions, cheese and mayonnaise, and based on the original made by Peppi's Old Tyme Sandwich Shop during the quarterback's rookie season.
• Sharky's Roethlisburger — a variation adding bacon and barbecue flair to the original.
“Other than that, we don't really have any other specials,” Huemme said. “The Steelers pretty much bring the people; we just try to keep them happy.”
Special appearances by Steelers players, past and present, and other Pittsburgh celebrities drive business as well.
Steelers elder statesman and facial-hair fanatic, defensive end Brett Kiesel, partnered with Dino's last year to promote his “Da Beard Gear” clothing line during training camp.
When he makes an appearance, “we have a line out the door of people waiting to meet him,” said Dino's manager Dan Victor.
At Sharky's, YouTube sensation “Pittsburgh Dad” made an appearance to promote North Versailles-based Full Pint Brewing Co.'s new “3-2-1 Win!” beer.
Fans travel vast distances to make their pilgrimage to training camp.
They gained a new travel option in recent years with Spirit Airlines offering nonstop flights to Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Unity from Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Orlando and Fort Lauderdale in Florida, and Dallas/Forth Worth in Texas. Spirit declined to indicate whether training camp brings an increase in airline passengers bound for Latrobe.
“We had people from Dallas in just today,” Huemme said Thursday. “We had people from Arizona, Florida. ... We had people from Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico in this year also.”
Audra Aliff, a manager at the Wingate by Wyndham hotel in Unity, said nightly occupancy figures during training camp consistently show more than 90 percent of the hotel's rooms are booked.
“We definitely look forward to it because of the business,” Aliff said of training camp. “I think it's fun to see everybody here. Everybody has Steelers stuff on.”
Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913, or firstname.lastname@example.org.