Steelers clash with their Heinz Field landlords

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The upside to a publicly-funded football stadium is the free money. The downside is the potentially contentious relationship with the bureaucrats from the public agency that oversees the venue.

The Steelers are currently dealing with the downside, and the team’s usually reserved owner is speaking out.

Via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Art Rooney has publicly criticized the Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority. Rooney said there’s “not a functioning relationship” with the authority.

“I don’t know that there’s a real commitment here from our landlord to do what’s necessary and work with us in a way that’s cooperative,” Rooney told the Post-Gazette. “It’s hard for me to explain what the reason is. It’s been something that’s becoming more difficult as the years have gone on in our lease.”

The two sides are haggling over improvements to the facility. The issue, per Rooney, isn’t money but action.

“It’s how we use the money,” he said. “It’s what kind of commitment we have to planning for the future. Obviously the development that we do around the stadium, that requires a lot of advanced planning. For whatever reason, working with these people . . . to get anything done, it’s like pulling teeth.”

Rooney criticisms elicited confusion from the authority’s solicitor.

“In the past six weeks, I personally have participated in at least three meetings with the Steelers organization in which the Steelers and [the authority] discussed the Steelers’ request for funding for Heinz Field,” Morgan Hanson told the Post-Gazette. “In all instances, the parties have worked together diligently and professionally in order that the stadium be maintained. . . . Obviously, [the authority] is the steward of the public’s monies. Accordingly, [the authority] must ensure that the Steelers’ requests fall within the public’s responsibility under the lease before approving them, a principle that both [the authority] and the Steelers have recognized from the beginning of their relationship. [The authority] intends to continue this long-standing practice of protecting the taxpayer while ensuring that our stadiums remain viable.”

Rooney believes that the delayed implementation of upgrades impacts the city’s ability to attract events like the ACC football championship, international soccer matches, and even a Super Bowl.

“It requires an awful lot of advanced planning and various people working together,” Rooney said. “Our problem is, at this point, we just don’t have that kind of relationship with our landlord, the Sports & Exhibition Authority. It’s a concern for us going forward whether we can continue to compete for those kinds of events.”

The Steelers wouldn’t have these issues if they’d built the stadium themselves. Then they could do whatever they want to upgrade it and market it for events on the 355 days of the year when NFL football isn’t being played there — and keep all the profits.

For whatever reason, most NFL teams choose not to own and operate football stadiums as private ventures. While that approach saves money on the front end, it makes it much harder for the team to maximize the use of the facility and the revenue it derives.

29 responses to “Steelers clash with their Heinz Field landlords

  1. Here’s an idea Art, give the tax payers back all of the money they are investing into Heinz field so you don’t have to and then the Rooney family can build their own stadium.

  2. Wouldn’t this be the same as a person living in government housing and wanting to do upgrades to the property, yet the property doesn’t belong to them to upgrade?

  3. Obviously the Steelers are about profit, and they should be. The Sports & Exhibition Authority, however, is a public agency. They aren’t about profit the way a private business is. (They are about money, but that’s different from profit sometimes).
    The Steelers have to deal with a competing interest in the landlord’s office whether they like it or not. Unless they buy their own stadium, and then they’ll be able to control it. I’m a free-enterprise guy, I say let the Steelers shell out their own money for their own stadium.

  4. There has never been a publicly financed stadium in the most liberal state in the union .The state with the deepest blue also has one of the highest rates of health health insurance (passed by a D legislature and a R governor ) .It is always a question of priorities and as much as we up here love our DUCK boat Championship parades not one dime to the billionaire owners —ever .

  5. I would think the process for requesting and granting monies for upgrades would be clearly detailed in the contract between the Steelers as lessees and the Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority as lessor. If the contract is not being adhered to, show the Authority where they are out of compliance. Negative comments about a “working relationship” or “real commitment” are stupid. Art is coming off as just another whining owner looking for more handouts. Stay classy, Art.

  6. bostonceltics says:
    Mar 3, 2017 2:02 PM

    There has never been a publicly financed stadium in the most liberal state in the union .The state with the deepest blue also has one of the highest rates of health health insurance (passed by a D legislature and a R governor ) .It is always a question of priorities and as much as we up here love our DUCK boat Championship parades not one dime to the billionaire owners —ever .

    So the fact that Gillette Stadium is a Not For Profit entity doesn’t bother you? It doesn’t bother you that building whose property and building is worth over $600 million has no obligation to pay taxes on it?

  7. What a fantasy. The fact that Gillette Stadium is tax exempt has nothing to do with being a non profit. It’s the case because it’s built on land owned by the town of Foxboro. It’s also the case with land owned by municipalities all over the state. Under agreement with the town, the Patriots still pay about 3 mil a yr in fees, which has done a lot to stimulate the small town’s economy.

  8. The Steelers also put their multi millions into the Heinz for improvements & upgrades. I think from what I hear it’s fair that they want those improvements done in a timely manner & some say to help bring in more revenue for the city & themselves my having major sporting events. What would it look like around Heinz without the Steelers?
    If the Steelers did pay for the Stadium themselves then the Steelers would charge what they want & rake in money from all the other events that would play there. The parking would all also go to the Steelers Am I missing something? I don’t see where the Tax payers lose for spending less than a billion dollars or about that for Heinz that will take in money for 30 years. The Steelers are not the only team that plays there either..

  9. If you are asking me as a person do I believe in tax breaks /incentives ? The answer is no . Payments in lieu of taxes never works out for the city/state .The downsides of educating a good portion of the nation’s
    doctors.lawyers ,engineers ,accountants etc is a capital city with a lot of tax exempt buildings .Now if the rest of the country wants to chip in for some of the cost of the teaching hospitals I am sure Texas ,Illinois ,Mass ,New York and a bunch of others will not refuse the cash.
    Should Fenway Park be replaced ? with out a doubt but on John Henry’s dime.
    Do I think the TD Garden is just average ? Yes but it was the Jacob’s bank role .Is Foxboro the best of the best ? no ,but than again it was built with loans not backed by the public treasury.

  10. Team is imploding. Cap poor because of little Ben, overrated Brown, and soon to be suspended Bell. Now they’ll probably get kicked out and have to play in a college stadium. So sad.

  11. The Steeler owner never talks about money. All of you do. He speaks of having general upkeep and improvements so that the stadium does not fall into disrepair.

    The city of Pittsburgh makes a bunch of money off of Hienz field and the Steelers are just one tenet who uses the stadium 8 Sundays out of 365. Other events also take place at the stadium that wears and tear on its infrastructure.

    Nowhere does this article speak of money but I bet you would blame the Steelers if you paid to see them play and your seat was broken, The restroom was out of order, the escalator was not working. Thats what the owner was talking about. The general upkeep so it continues to be a modern state of the art facility and attract top events and even a Super Bowl. It may never happen but being a viable option is what he is talking about. He speaks of talking to the sports authority about general upkeep of the stadium and their refusal to fix things in the stadium that are in need of attention.

    All of you never mention the sports authority makes millions of dollars when it hosts events at the stadium including the steeler football games. How much money do the think the city of Pittsburgh made hosting two outdoor hockey games for the Pittsburgh penguins the past month. The money they make hosting six or seven University of Pittsburgh football games. The many concerts. I am sure when its finally tabulated. The money Pittsburgh makes off of Hienz field is in the billions itself so lay off the Rooney’s. Just because they have been successful through the years does not warrant them having to apologize to anyone. They give back to the people of Pittsburgh all the time and in many ways. As do their players and coaches.

  12. The Rooney Marra connection are the mob bosses of the league. Goodell is the hit man. Kraft is there wo is me accomplice. Keeping all of the post season money in New York, Pannsylvania and Massachusetts. Real Owners build there own stadiums

  13. Look out! The Carson City Chargers could set the NFL screw-up trend to the San Antonio Steelers. The NFL couldn’t care less ….it’s just get the money. I think the window is closing on municipalities paying millions $ for upgraded or new stadiums. Taxpayers are already overtaxed and they won’t do it. The NFL needs to redo their charters and devise new ways to pay for stadiums themselves. Billionaires like Kroenke (Walmart fortune) will swoop in, purchase these teams and move them to new stadiums which they’ll build themselves. The Steelers would make a nice new toy for some billionaire. The NFL couldn’t care less about their integrity and tradition. It’s get the money.

  14. In the event the Rooney’s decided to build their own stadium in the suburbs, such as in the Cranberry area where the former North Catholic HS was relocated from the North Side (Troy Hill), what happens to the Pitt Panther football program? The University has shown no interest in the construction of an on-campus or near-campus stadium. I also recall the parking nightmare on Saturdays when Pitt played at the Old Field behind The Pete. The Parkway East was snarled for miles as fans tried to enter the Oakland Exit. Although busing students from the Oakland campus to the North Side and back is cumbersome and inconvenient, it is the best option at this point in time. So what impacts the Steelers’ franchise also affect the University of Pittsburgh Football Program which appears to have a bright future with Coach Narduzzi and a schedule that includes its ACC rivals and PSU, and in the near future, WVU.

  15. The first thought that comes to my mind is the fact that all NFL teams are tax exempt. They don’t pay taxes, at least to the Federal government. The Roonies could pave the way for a revival in community spirit and donate the upgrade money in lieu of all that tax revenue they don’t pay.

    A good plan B would be for the Steelers to buy the stadium and lease it back to the city when other events need a venue.

  16. I don’t know why Steelers wouldn’t have built a stadium themselves. A sound stable franchise with incredibly loyal following. Money is there. Would really have the municipality backed in a corner if they have that big expensive stadium without its major tenant.

  17. The Rooneys are remember , very left liberals. They like to spend other peoples money. They come across as rich people who feel they are poor as far as other rich people or NFL owners go.
    They are known to treat people lowly, and beneath them.

    If Art II, wants things done, he could front the money, then be reimbursed first with interest of course with profits of these events, and it is a win win. He needs stop using Pittsburghers money, and find creative solutions, that resolves his upgrades, not upkeeps.

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