Judge Rules Steelers' End Zone Expansion Plan Does Not Qualify As A Capital Improvement
Allegheny County (Penn.) Common Pleas Judge Joseph James yesterday said that the Steelers "failed to show" that a proposed 3,000-seat south end zone expansion at Heinz Field "met the requirements to be classified as a capital improvement" under the team's lease for the stadium, according to Mark Belko of the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE. The decision "amounts to a victory" for the Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority (SEA), the stadium's owner. The SEA had argued that the Steelers "first must show the project meets the criteria for a capital improvement" before the government entity is "obligated to fund two-thirds of the cost, as the Steelers are insisting." While the dispute over the lease language "likely will end up going to trial, Wednesday's ruling could be problematic for the Steelers in trying to force the SEA to fund the bulk of the construction because it clearly implies they must first establish the expansion meets the standards for a capital improvement." The proposed agreement would have "funded the extra seats through a $1 increase in an existing surcharge on Steelers tickets and a new parking surcharge of $2 to $3 at lots around Heinz Field during home games, a formula the SEA thought was unworkable." Team officials originally had "hoped to have the new seats ready for this season." Steelers Dir of Strategic Planning & Development Mark Hart has said that if there is "no resolution to the squabble by early September, the team won't be able to complete the expansion for the 2014 season" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 6/20). In Pittsburgh, Adam Brandolph notes the dispute over the cost of additional seating -- "in addition to a disagreement over a scoreboard in the north end zone and upgrades to an audio-visual control room -- will be settled at a late-season trial on Dec. 4." The cost of the upgrades has been "estimated" at about $40M (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 6/20).