The annual “Friday Night Lights” Steelers practice held Aug. 2 at Latrobe’s Memorial Stadium raised $21,510 for Greater Latrobe School District sports and student activities as well as several community programs.
Athletic Director Mark Mears, who coordinates the event, noted the take — from gate receipts, concessions and about 200 premium VIP seats on the stadium track — fell within an average range but represented a drop from last year’s record profit of nearly $34,000.
The Steelers event, held during the team’s summer training camp at nearby Saint Vincent College, requires nearly year-round planning and a volunteer staff of a few hundred, Mears has said.
While last year’s practice benefited from ideal weather, drawing a crowd estimated at about 10,000, this summer’s event was hampered by stormy skies and lightning that day, Mears said in a report Tuesday to the school board.
“The weather does play a factor in probably the last $5,000 to $8,000” in profit, he said. “The weather decides your last 3,000 attendance.”
While inclement weather tends to limit the number of local residents who turn out for the annual event, it doesn’t discourage Steelers fans who have traveled from other states to see the practice and visit training camp, Mears said.
“The people from Georgia who are filling up all the hotels — they’re here, they’re coming,” he said.
“Steeler Night” at Memorial Stadium has become a phenomenon that impacts all of the county, not just Greater Latrobe, Mears said, noting there is a spin-off benefit to area restaurants and other businesses.
“It’s grown to the point where Saint Vincent College this year emailed me and asked me for all my financial stuff for the last three years because they’re doing a study on the importance of Steelers training camp to the community,” said Mears, “and, of course, a big piece of it now has become Friday Night Lights.”
During the past decade he has been in charge of the practice preparations the annual profit has increased from an initial $12,000, he said.
“In the last five years, I know that we’ve raised over $100,000 for our programs and the community,” he said.
Of this year’s profits, the largest amount — $3,500 — will go to the school’s student council. The local parks and recreation program, which includes the school district as a member organization, will receive $3,000, as will a program that awards scholarships to district students in honor of state Trooper Michael P. Stewart III, a 2008 Greater Latrobe graduate who was killed in the line of duty July 14, 2017, in a Ligonier Township wreck.
A $900 allocation will benefit the local fire department, while the school’s band boosters will receive $1,500 and the football boosters and youth football program each will get $1,000.
A dozen other Greater Latrobe sports programs will receive amounts ranging from $500 to $1,260.
The Friday Night Lights profit-sharing can relieve some of the fundraising burden for athletics and activities booster groups, Mears said.
“I know when I was a parent in the booster program, if I didn’t have to sell one more ticket or have one more sub sale, I’d gladly stand at a Steelers practice for four hours and watch the Steelers,” he said.