Pittsburgh Steelers to finance $40 million in stadium improvements without a dime of public money

by Cleveland Frowns on May 30, 2014

It’s no secret that NFL football works a lot differently in Pittsburgh than it does in Cleveland. But as hard as it might have been to think that the contrast between the two cities could be any more stark on this front, here’s a story from last week’s Tribune-Review about how Pittsburgh city leaders have come to an agreement with the owners of the Steelers “that will allow the [franchise] to pack more fans into Heinz Field without sacking taxpayers.”

“The deal would end more than a year of legal wrangling over who would pay for an estimated $40 million in improvements to the 13-year-old stadium,” Tom Fontaine reports. “The Steelers sued [the city and Allegheny County] in late 2012 when a deal to finance the stadium improvements fell apart.” The NFL franchise claimed that it was owed public money for the stadium improvements pursuant to contracts with the city and county. But the parties eventually figured out a way pay for the improvements without any public funds, including by allowing the Steelers to sell personal seat licenses to the fans who use the facility, as well as by adding “a $1 ticket surcharge to tickets for Steelers and Pitt Panthers football games, along with stadium events such as concerts.”

“I am pleased that this project at Heinz Field is being completed without any public dollars, which are increasingly scarce,” said Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto.

So if you’re keeping score you’ll note that it’s more than six Super Bowls to none, and it’s more than a legacy of unsurpassed glory versus one of historic ineptitude.


It’s also that in Pittsburgh, when the NFL team wants to pay for stadium improvements by using taxpayer money that it claims to be owed under onerous team-friendly contracts that were written decades ago, there are city leaders in Pittsburgh who, in open recognition of the fact that “public dollars are increasingly scarce,” will engage in “legal wrangling” over the claimed obligations until a better deal results that shifts the burden of maintaining the facilities off of the public on to the team owners who derive untold millions of dollars in private profit from them.

Whereas in Cleveland, when the NFL team wants to pay for stadium improvements by using taxpayer money that it claims to be owed under onerous team-friendly contracts that were written decades ago, every prominent politician in town rolls over while the NFL team and its corporate partners pay to get the law changed so the team can get into taxpayers’ pockets for every bit of money that it’s asking for, and in a way that exerts a disproportionate burden on the taxpayers least able to afford it. Not only is there no “legal wrangling” for a better deal for Cleveland taxpayers, there’s not a single politician (let alone a mainstream media outlet) in town who would dare suggest that a better deal is possible. Instead, they all sign on to the threat that the city would be weakened if the team doesn’t get every penny from taxpayers that it wants, with the most prominent of them going all over TV and radio to broadcast that threat on the team owner’s behalf. And when someone in Cleveland suggests an alternative plan to pay for stadium improvements, such as a ticket surcharge just like the one that was just introduced in Pittsburgh, city leaders attempt to brand them as lunatics. Finally, when a city like Pittsburgh implements an alternative plan to pay for stadium improvements that’s just like the one that Cleveland’s leaders said was not only impossible but crazy, Cleveland’s only daily newspaper — that campaigned relentlessly on behalf of the most recent $300 million handout to Cleveland’s pro sports owners — doesn’t publish a word about it. All despite the fact that public dollars are at least as scarce in Cleveland as they are in Pittsburgh, and probably much more so.

If it’s all not enough to prove that Cleveland and Pittsburgh exist at opposite poles of an extra-dimensional warp, it’s at least another one of those things that might tempt a person to think that certain places have the professional sports franchises that they deserve.


In other news, Money Manziel went to Las Vegas. Please check back here shortly for more on this important subject.



Deadspin: “Opponents Barred From Speaking As Cobb County Approves Braves Stadium

Field of Schemes: “Braves exec: Good thing this stadium deal was secret, or somebody might have objected

Miami Herald: “Dolphins abandoning tax relief plan in favor of event payments

Rustwire: “In sports deals, Pittsburgh is Bizarro Cleveland

Rustwire: “Wealthy suburbs help keep pro sports on Cleveland’s payroll

Rustwire: “How big taxpayer-funded development works in Cleveland

Scene: “Sin Tax Voting Breakdown: Wealthy East Side Suburbs Supported, Cleveland Opposed

  • Ess_Eh

    At least we can throw another $300M at 3 miles of road!

    • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns
      • actovegin1armstrong

        Frownie, I appreciate the vim and vigor with which you “fight city hall”. You are a brave man to be much commended for your political actions, but a few of us are cowards and we took the easy route.
        Renewable energy, or any other type of energy continues to become less important in Cleveland.
        Cleveland is terrific and it is a great place to be from.

        Last one to leave turn out the light.

        • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

          Cleveland is the natural global capital of the true post-industrial era and in current times is not for softies.

          • actovegin1armstrong

            Exactly correct Frownie, all of us softies have moved south.
            Fight the good fight my friend!

          • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

            Love it or leave it.

          • actovegin1armstrong

            I shall do both, I made a cowardly retreat with my tail between my legs, but I still love Cleveland.

          • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

            Cleveland loves you too, Acto. Just don’t come back here asking for playoff tickets.

  • nj0

    “every prominent politician in town rolls
    over while the NFL team and its corporate partners pay to get the law
    changed so the team can get into taxpayers’ pockets for every bit of
    money that it’s asking for”

    This is the most disheartening. There really wasn’t one politician, was there? Considering how well the opposition did with zero political and limited financial support, it makes you wonder what could have happened if one Cleveland or county politician took on the issue.

    Sure seemed like a winner too – in lower income neighborhoods you could talk about the inequity, in higher income neighborhoods you could appeal to the ever-present libertarian sensibilities. It may have been a time when one politician with some clout could have made a huge difference for the city.

    But whatever? Punt. Lets stick with the status quo that has kept Cleveland so strong over the last 30 years. Rah rah! Johnny Manziel has to be vacationing somewhere this weekend, right?

    • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns


  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1kbBmlAvdI PML

    The only way to improve a Stadium in Pissburgh is to move it.

    • actovegin1armstrong

      PML do you know what you call an intelligent person in Pittsburgh?

      • bupalos

        I think PML is stuck in a mobius loop.

        Speaking of that den of iniquity, it turned out that Bianchi was stolen from Pittsburgh by a charming couple from Youngstown wearing Steeler gear. I got to play rogue TV detective for two days and ended up getting the bike back for the owner and a $100 donation for our anti-fracking group. But now I’m still Bianchiless and kind of infatuated with the un-findable but indescribably perfect Volpe.

        • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki


          that is all.

        • actovegin1armstrong

          I forgot to ask, was it my beloved Celeste?

          • bupalos

            It was not, it happened to be the same kind of greenie gold that my old raleigh was, which may account for some of my irrationality regarding it. Since I’m scouring the interwebs for another, I’m growing attached to celeste as well.

      • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1kbBmlAvdI PML

        I was going to say a visitor, but if they are visiting that place I’d say that is highly suspect.

        • actovegin1armstrong

          Brilliant! Great job PML, it is not as simple as What do you call a pretty woman in Pittsburgh?
          A tourist.
          The answer is, an intelligent person would never go to Pittsburgh.
          Also, I am very curious, are there a lot of ants in your Listing Loop?
          Listing beat Mobius to that invention and it sounds better, like when a boat is listing.

  • bupalos

    Well that’s probably another reason why they rushed it. If the pittsburgh agreement had been complete it would have been such an obvious parallel with such loaded implications as far as the rivalry (well played here btw, makes me wince) that it’s hard to imagine that pig passing.

    Day late, 300 million dollars short.

  • David Currie

    Don’t you find it interesting that FIRST ENERGY STADIUM is powered by Cleveland Public Power?

  • Jeff Rich

    I miss this site, even though it seems to have transitioned from dumping on the teams to dumping on the city itself.

    • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com/ Cleveland Frowns

      Thanks, man. I miss this site too. Should have a post up on the Redskins decision this weekend.

  • HisFishHawk

    “Cleveland Frowns” has been included in our Sites To See #381. Be assured that we hope this helps to point many new visitors in your direction.


Previous post:

Next post: