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Trib editorial: Pirates' priority not what fans had in mind

| Friday, Feb. 9, 2018, 9:37 a.m.
Pirates fans fill PNC Park during Opening Day ceremonies in March 2014. (Trib photo)
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pirates fans fill PNC Park during Opening Day ceremonies in March 2014. (Trib photo)

Pittsburgh Pirates fans want to see more investment in their home team's roster. Team management wants to see more money from the Sports & Exhibition Authority for PNC Park.

Are the Pirates purposely trying to foul-tip the fans?

At issue are what the SEA and Pirates define as “capital improvements.” The SEA and Allegheny County on Thursday approved a $2.6 million payment to the Pirates for PNC Park's upkeep after the 2016 season, based on what their consultants said was necessary. Those ballpark improvements are funded by a 5-percent surcharge on tickets, leaving a $2.5 million fund balance after the latest payment.

Pirates Senior VP Bryan Stroh said the Buccos spent more than $10 million on improvements during the off-season and insisted that the authority rightfully owes about $1.9 million — for which the team will sue, if necessary.

Such is the mess that unfolds with publicly financed sports stadiums. A similar dispute erupted between the Steelers and the SEA in 2012 over improvements at Heinz Field. Ultimately the Steelers agreed to pay that tab.

Presumably lawyers for the SEA and Pirates will hash out what's “fair” under terms of the ballpark's lease. But will a resolution lead to an even higher ticket surcharge at PNC Park?

Given fans' ire over recent Pirates' trades, if team management wants the SEA to pay for new stadium seats, which the SEA consultants say are unnecessary, team management should first consider whether future Pirates games are going to fill those seats.

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