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.
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 pursuant to 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 pursuant to 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.
Miami Herald: “Dolphins abandoning tax relief plan in favor of event payments”
Rustwire: “In sports deals, Pittsburgh is Bizarro Cleveland”