Stadium authority says contract doesn't require it to pay for Heinz Field expansion
By Jeremy Boren
Published: Monday, Nov. 19, 2012, 11:55 a.m.
Not much has gone smoothly for the Pittsburgh Steelers this season. The team's proposal to expand Heinz Field is no exception.
Sports & Exhibition Authority officials told Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Joseph James on Monday it shouldn't have to pay nearly $29 million to add 3,000 seats, a scoreboard and control room upgrades at the stadium it owns.
The Steelers filed notice late last month warning the team intended to sue the authority for refusing to pay two-thirds of costs associated with the expansion, which the team contends is required under its lease.
This is the first time the two sides have met in a courtroom. James termed it a “status conference,” a hint the dispute will end up at trial.
“We'll be strongly defending this case, because the Sports & Exhibition Authority has not violated the lease, in its judgment, and we're hopeful the court will ultimately agree with that,” said Walter DeForest, an attorney representing the authority.
DeForest told James the lease specifies conditions that must be met before the authority is obligated to pay for a “capital improvement” to the stadium.
A key provision states that at least half of National Football League stadiums must have undergone similar expansions and paid for 25 percent of the cost of those expansions with tax dollars. That hasn't happened, DeForest said.
“We clearly disagree,” said Steelers attorney Kevin Lucas. “We believe the obligations of the SEA are clear in the lease and the amounts of money that are being requested are required by the lease.”
The Steelers have cited a lease provision that requires the SEA to pay two-thirds of the cost of a seat expansion of fewer than 10,000.
DeForest said the team wants the authority to pay about $5 million for the control room, $3.6 million for scoreboard above the north end zone, and $20 million to install the seats. He said the Steelers spent money on the control room upgrade.
Steelers officials declined to confirm those figures. When the sides were negotiating, the Steelers proposed imposing a surcharge of $1 per game ticket and $2 to $3 on parking, so that fans would pay toward the authority's share of the seat expansion costs. The plan fizzled when Alco Parking Corp., which operates most of the North Shore parking lots, balked at the parking surcharge.
The total project, including the scoreboard and other costs, is about $40 million.
Lucas, an attorney at Downtown law firm Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney where Steelers President Art Rooney II works, told James he won't represent the Steelers at trial. He didn't provide a reason.
Jeremy Boren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers defense’s rapid decline looks similar to that of Steel Curtain’s
- Starkey: NHL stuck in stone age
- Penguins’ Neal apologizes, vows to be better
- Steelers notebook: Roethlisberger comes to Haley defense again
- Pirates general manager Huntington is searching for right player, deal
- Pirates notebook: Polanco ruled out as Opening Day option
- Woodley says he’s fine with move to right side despite numbers
- Likely $2.3B influx puts PennDOT big-ticket road projects in play
- Help on deck to help Jeannette deal with Monsour, nearby buildings
- Highmark health plan enrollment skyrockets from Healthcare.gov
- PNC plans to do away with tellers