Sports Facilities and Franchises: Steelers' Art Rooney II Discusses NFL Hot Topics
Steelers Co-Owner and President Art Rooney II was candid and direct in the first featured one-on-one interview this morning at the '14 Sports Facilities & Franchises conference in Pittsburgh. Rooney was named Steelers president in '03 when his father, Dan, passed the torch to him. He was principally responsible for the design, development and financing plan for Heinz Field, which opened in '01.
Here is Rooney on a number of topics from his discussion today with Executive Editor Abe Madkour:
The NFL in L.A.: “It’s all about a stadium. If they build it, [a team] will come. Maybe more than one. I believe we will have one, maybe two teams there in the next ten years. The league just wants to make sure it works this time. LA is a great market. It’s just making sure there’s a great venue there.”
The NFL in London: “We’re still a little ways away from deciding whether we can locate a team there, but so far so good. I’m not necessarily sold on the idea that we need to have a team there to be successful.” Rooney said travel will be a hurdle "unless someone brings back the Concorde.”
The Thursday-night TV package: “It will be successful. The partnership with CBS is key to it. Thursday night is a great night for NFL football.” Asked what the coaches think, Rooney said, “Coaches like to play at 1 o’clock on Sunday. Everything else is a distraction.”
Other possible TV broadcast windows: “You never know. I wouldn’t say we’re done, but there won’t be many significant changes in the regular season.”
Cold-weather Super Bowls: “Everyone was asking Roger Goodell (at Met Life Stadium) where he went to church that weekend. This winter was one of the coldest ever in New York, but not that day. We’ll see more cold-weather Super Bowls. I hope we see one in my lifetime in Pittsburgh.”
NFL-NFLPA relationship: “’Strained’ might be one way to say it.”
Lack of agreement on HGH testing: “It’s been a thorn in everyone’s side. We feel very strongly about it. It’s not something we can compromise on. The Players Association has made it a bone of contention that they will not let go. It’s taken much longer than any of us would have liked.”
Expansion of playoffs: “We’re interested in looking at it. From the Pittsburgh perspective, we have an open mind about it. One more playoff game in the opening round would allow more fans to be alive in the competing cities.”
An 18-game regular season: “Not in the near future. The truth is, we haven’t had any meaningful discussion about expanding the regular season since the early days of negotiating the recent CBA.”
What’s next for the NFL: “You don’t want to be complacent, that’s for darn sure. The broadcasting landscape is changing dramatically. There are a lot more ways to reach fans, and that’s a good thing. It’s up to the league and the clubs to provide the kind of content fans want.”
A typical gameday at Heinz Field for him: “I arrive about three hours before the game and meet with the staff. I walk the building with (Dir of Stadium Management) Jimmie Sacco. I enjoy those hours before the game, speaking with fans, with people who work in the stadium, with people from the visiting team. After kickoff, I’m not much of a socializer. I focus on the game.” Rooney added that he watches home games with his father, Dan, and GM Kevin Colbert.
Balancing tradition with new things: “We consider our history our foundation -- something we want to build on. But there’s a new generation of sports fan that expects different things. You’re constantly trying to improve your stadium, but not to the point where it’s a distraction from the game. We’re not trying to re-create someone’s living room at Heinz Field. We want a great in-stadium experience. The little things count -- the convenient things, like access to the stadium and parking.”