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Steeler Night raises $34K for Latrobe student programs

Jeff Himler
| Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018, 5:45 a.m.
The Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger puts a smile on a young fan’s face after signing his jersey before practice Friday, Aug. 3, 2018, at Memorial Stadium in Latrobe.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger puts a smile on a young fan’s face after signing his jersey before practice Friday, Aug. 3, 2018, at Memorial Stadium in Latrobe.

Last month’s Steeler Night, the annual preseason practice held under the lights of Latrobe’s Memorial Stadium, raised nearly $34,000 for youth programs at Greater Latrobe School District.

That was a record for the event, which attracted an estimated 10,000 fans, according to district athletic director Mark Mears. The practice normally is held on the first Friday in August.

Mears, who has coordinated the event for the district for the past decade, has seen annual profits from the event grow from about $12,000.

“The Steelers give us the gate (receipts), very graciously,” Mears said this week in a report to the school board.

There are also proceeds from concessions, a raffle ticket and, for the past two years, premium VIP seats set up on the stadium track.

Mears plans to double the number of VIP seats next year, to 200, and has no doubt they’ll all be filled. “We already have 47 reserved,” he said.

In 2014, the district stopped directing a large chunk of the Steeler Night profits into its general fund, Mears said. That freed up more money to distribute among student organizations and athletic teams.

As the district’s Steeler Night profits have grown, so has the number of student groups that benefit. Mears said proceeds from this year ‘s event were shared among more than 20 participating student programs.

Normally, student council has received $5,000 annually, the district football program $3,000 and the marching band $1,500 from the event. The profit-sharing has been temporarily increased for student organizations with special funding needs, Mears noted.

Two years ago, when the baseball team won the state title, it got a larger $1,700 share so that all the players could get championship rings. The boys’ basketball team got extra money to help fund a Disney trip.

Some Steeler Night revenue is helping to kick off the district’s youth football program. Now entering its second year, it has 23 players on the third- and fourth-grade team and 26 on the fifth- and sixth-grade squad, Mears said.

Steeler Night also generates money for a scholarship for Greater Latrobe students that honors state Trooper Michael P. Stewart III, a 2008 district graduate who was killed in the line of duty on July 14, 2017, in a Ligonier Township wreck.

School director Michael O’Barto recommended the event organizers fill out deposit slips as they count the receipts. “It puts everybody above-board,” he told Mears. “That protects you and everybody else.”

Fellow board member Steven LoCascio and Mears said the procedure normally followed is to secure the money in locked bags that are placed in a bank over the weekend and retrieved for counting on Monday.

When ESPN presented a live telecast of a Steeler Night event, it no doubt boosted attendance, Mears said. “This might have been pushed as far as you’re going to get it,” he said of the event.

But, he pointed out, fans still came out in droves for this year’s event, although ESPN didn’t return to provide coverage.

Steeler Night now requires year-round planning and staffing by about 300 volunteers. “It’s a massive night,” Mears said. “It’s not easy to manage.

“How big this event is going to get, I don’t know. It keeps growing and growing.”

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, jhimler@tribweb.com or via Twitter @jhimler_news.

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