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SPORTS ON THE BALLOT: STEELERS/PIRATES TROUNCED IN VOTE
Published November 5, 1997
An 11-county regional tax initiative that would have provided financing for various projects, including new facilities for the Steelers and Pirates, "crashed in defeat Tuesday, apparently failing in all 11 counties that voted on it," according to Sandra Skowron of the Pittsburgh TRIBUNE- REVIEW. The closest vote was in Allegheny County, home of the two teams, where it was defeated 58%-42%. With the defeat, "attention shifted" to whether leaders "could quickly put together the so-called 'Plan B' -- an alternative redevelopment program that would finance new stadiums." Asked after last night's vote about what happens now, Steelers President Dan Rooney said, "This is not over by any means." Rooney said one plan might include a new stadium outside the city. Pirates Managing General Partner Kevin McClatchy: "I'm going to get back to the businesses of baseball. I'm going to let the elected officials worry about stadiums. Politics is not my nature. I'm not good at it." Under the lease, the Pirates could be put up for sale "as early as" February if ballpark financing isn't in place and the team can "demonstrate losses" of $15M over three years (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 11/5). NO BEND IN STEEL CITY: Skowron: "From the moment the tax plan debuted in April, it faced seemingly insurmountable opposition, with critics scorning it as corporate welfare for athletes and team owners." Rooney: "People hate taxes. We probably should have gone out and done the grassroots effort sooner." Skowron adds that "many voters" were also "mindful" that Three Rivers Stadium "still isn't paid for," with the debt at about $45M (TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 11/5). In Philadelphia, Jeff Gammage writes that although the initiative was "condemned by citizens" and local government leaders "almost from the start," it was supported in a "rare front-page editorial" in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PHILA. INQUIRER, 11/5). The AP adds the pro-tax forces -- "mostly corporate leaders and sports figures -- seemed to badly misjudge the determination of their opponents." Despite the rain and an off-season election, voter turnout was more than 50% in Allegheny County (AP, 11/5).