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Steelers, SEA seeking settlement in Heinz Field seating dispute

| Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, 5:27 p.m.

After squabbling for nearly a year over who will pay to install 3,000 additional seats at Heinz Field, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the city-county Sports & Exhibition Authority are trying to reach a settlement, both sides announced Thursday.

“If we can reach something agreeable, we might have a shot at getting something done for 2014,” Mark Hart, the Steelers director of planning and development, said after a hearing before Allegheny Common Pleas Judge Joseph M. James. “It's in all our best interests.”

The announcement came after representatives of the two sides — including Steelers President Art Rooney II — argued over whether to hold a hearing in which former SEA Director Steve Leeper would testify about his interpretation of two paragraphs in the Heinz Field lease that address capital improvements.

Leeper helped negotiate terms of the lease between the SEA and Steelers. James said he would consider holding the hearing, but did not make a decision. A trial is set for Dec. 4.

The Steelers contend the SEA should pay for two-thirds of the $20 million expansion to the south end of the stadium. The SEA argues the Steelers should pay the full cost.

The Steelers sued the SEA in October after a deal to finance the expansion with a parking surcharge fell through. Heinz Field ranks 25th out of 31 NFL stadiums in capacity with about 65,000 seats.

The flap is part of a larger disagreement about upgrades at the 12-year-old stadium. The Steelers want to add a scoreboard to the north end zone and be repaid for refurbishing the stadium's audio-visual control room. The total cost of the upgrades has been estimated at about $40 million.

“I don't think we're at the stage where each of the parties can say what they're willing to do at this point,” Hart said. “Each party wants to have some good discussions.”

Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or abrandolph@tribweb.com.

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