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The Steelers deal: Shhhhhh! Secret!

| Monday, Dec. 3, 2012, 8:51 p.m.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are cashing in on a credit — part of the franchise's original lease deal — allowing them to avoid a $25 million rent payment on Heinz Field for the first 10 years of operations. The team supposedly met offsetting tax revenue minimums.

But there's all manner of hinkiness involved.

Taxpayers footed most of the bill for the new $281 million North Shore stadium, including a $75 million “grant” from the state. But the Steelers' lease (as does the Pittsburgh Pirates' for PNC Park) forgives repayment if tax revenues generated by the facility exceed that $25 million. Well, not exactly.

The $25 million threshold is satisfied by multiplying actual tax revenues by 7.5, a multiplier that one sports economist calls “outrageous” and “egregious.”

Additionally, state officials and the Steelers won't release the “baseline” number to which the multiplier was applied. The former cite tax confidentiality laws. Convenient, eh?

In the new debate over whether the public should be on the hook for a nearly $40 million Heinz Field expansion, the Steelers claim to have generated $100 million for local and state governments. Is that a real number? Is that the “multiplier” number? And if the information is so confidential, so proprietary, why did the Steelers throw it out? And shouldn't that disclosure lead to opening the ledger for a full and public accounting?

Public facility. Public money. Shhhhhh! Secret! The public be damned. Again.

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