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Steelers, sports authority seal deal for the expansion of Heinz Field

| Monday, May 19, 2014, 4:28 p.m.

The city-county Sports & Exhibition Authority is expected to approve a deal on Tuesday morning that will allow the Pittsburgh Steelers to pack more fans into Heinz Field without sacking taxpayers, officials said.

The deal would end more than a year of legal wrangling over who would pay for an estimated $40 million in improvements to the 13-year-old stadium, built for $281 million largely with public money.

“I am pleased that this project at Heinz Field is being completed without any public dollars, which are increasingly scarce,” said Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto.

Steelers President Art Rooney II said the team's lease payment to SEA will increase to $2.1 million a year under the deal, running from 2015 through 2031. It will be used to pay off a bond to cover the cost of adding 3,000 seats in time for the 2015 season, a scoreboard for the upcoming season and completed improvements to the stadium's control room. The bond will be issued through SEA and guaranteed by the Allegheny Regional Asset District.

The deal will boost money going into a reserve fund for repairs at SEA-owned facilities, which include the 65,050-seat Heinz Field, PNC Park, Consol Energy Center and the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. The teams will kick in more money, said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who couldn't provide details.

Approximately $800,000 a year that RAD contributes to pay off debt related to the former Civic Arena is expected to start supplementing the reserve fund in about five years, Fitzgerald said.

The Steelers, doing business as PSSI Stadium LLC, will add a $1 ticket surcharge starting in 2015 to help pay for the improvements, Rooney said. It will be applied to tickets for Steelers and Pitt Panthers football games, along with stadium events such as concerts.

Steelers tickets have a surcharge of up to $3, while surcharges for other events are capped at $2. Proceeds of up to $1.4 million are used for debt service, and additional money will go into a capital reserve fund.

The deal will allow the Steelers to sell personal seat licenses on the new seats.

Ticket prices are going up this season with variable pricing depending on the opponent expected to boost season ticket prices 2.5 percent to 4.5 percent.

“With the new general reserved seats, club seats and new high-definition scoreboard, we believe these additions will play an important part in making sure Heinz Field continues to be a state-of-the-art facility for our fans,” Rooney said.

Fitzgerald called the deal “a positive outcome for everyone involved.”

The Steelers sued SEA in late 2012 when a deal to finance the stadium improvements fell apart. One proposal would have slapped a $2 to $3 surcharge to the cost of parking near Heinz Field during home games.

Merrill Stabile, president of Alco Parking Corp. and a vocal opponent of the parking surcharge, said, “I applaud the deal. We didn't feel (the parking surcharge) was a fair deal. We have our own needs in terms of generating revenue for capital revenue for capital projects.”

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

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