St. Vincent, Latrobe prepare for Steelers' arrival
Thousands of rabid Steelers fans must have made a good impression — ESPN is planning a live broadcast from the team's annual night practice in Latrobe for the second year.
Mark Mears, athletic director of Greater Latrobe School District, said he learned a lot from the 2016 event that drew more than 10,000 people.
“It was fantastic,” Mears said Wednesday. “We actually had a lot of fun.”
Officials at St. Vincent College are preparing for the annual stream of players and fans as the 52nd consecutive training camp gets under way next week. Players report to the Unity campus July 27. The first public practice is at 2:55 p.m. July 28.
Fourteen practices at the college will be open to the public, as will the night event with ESPN at Latrobe Memorial Stadium on Aug. 4.
ESPN's SportsCenter on the Road will broadcast live, with numerous personalities on site for the show, including former Steeler Ryan Clark along with Scott Van Pelt and Sal Paolantonio.
Steelers Fest will precede the night practice outside the stadium.
Mears recorded last year's ESPN broadcast and said it was a thrill to see Latrobe in the national spotlight.
“I thought it went very good, but I also learned from it,” he said.
This year, $100 VIP tickets for the night practice — which is a fundraiser for district students — will be available and will include a meal and seat on the stadium track. There are only 100 of those tickets.
“I thought, what would be the ultimate for a Steelers fan that comes 3,000 miles?” he said. “This might be a once-in-a-lifetime trip for this family.”
The college is getting ready for the team's arrival by erecting fencing and moving furniture in buildings and dorms where players will stay.
“This is always an exciting time,” college President Brother Norman Hipps said. “Our college incoming freshmen have just completed their registration and orientation. We look forward now to having the Steelers come on campus.”
Preparations for fans are under way, too.
The Rev. Anthony Grossi, college bookstore director, said markers for player autographs and plenty of black-and-gold paraphernalia are ready for purchase.
College officials will honor the late Dan Rooney, who served as Steelers chairman and U.S. ambassador to Ireland, during the annual Mass at 11:30 a.m. July 30 in the Basilica. Rooney died April 13.
Hipps anticipates members of the Rooney and Steelers families to participate in the Mass.
“It's a chance for all of us to pray and to celebrate the life that we've received,” he said.
For the first time, a charity walk on July 29 will benefit the Chuck Noll Foundation for Brain Injury Research, Hipps said.
Before the night practice, Steelers Fest will be held from noon to 6 p.m. outside the Latrobe stadium. Former Steelers Louis Lipps and Mike Logan will sign autographs among numerous other activities, according to Allen Martello, interim president of the Greater Latrobe Laurel Valley Chamber of Commerce. Fans will have an opportunity to take a photograph with the team's six Super Bowl championship Lombardi trophies.