Steelers to seek public funding
Team wants to build $10 million entertainment complex near Heinz Field
Friday, February 29, 2008
By Mark Belko, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Steelers likely will seek public subsidies to help offset the cost of a proposed year-round $10 million entertainment complex near Heinz Field.
Frank Kass, chairman of Continental Real Estate Cos., which is developing the land between the stadium and PNC Park, said the team hopes to complete a deal to move forward with the project by the end of March.
It's one that likely will need some public help, he said.
"I know we will have a deal done that still requires some public funding. We should be ready to apply for that by the end of March," he said.
The Steelers have been talking to sports and entertainment giant Anschutz Entertainment Group about the concept, which would feature a club-like indoor venue and the ability to hold events outside in open space near Heinz Field.
The complex would have covered seating for about 2,000 people and would host concerts, special performances, and festivals.
Mr. Kass pointed out that the team had received a $4 million state grant four years ago to help finance a 5,600-seat amphitheater project that was to be built in the same spot. This project would be substantially smaller.
The Steelers later gave up the grant so it could be used to help fund construction of a new parking garage on the North Shore. They eventually abandoned plans for the amphitheater after having trouble negotiating a deal with a promoter and finalizing the economics of the project.
When asked how much in the way of public funding the Steelers would need for the new project, Mr. Kass replied, "We had $4 million moved over to the garage. I think we need that same amount."
He added he did not know exactly how much would be sought or whether state or local sources would be involved.
Steelers President Art Rooney II declined comment yesterday.
Continental, PSSI Stadium Corp., a Steelers' subsidiary, and The Cordish Co., a Baltimore developer, also had applied for $10 million in state grants under an infrastructure and facilities improvement program as part of a proposed amphitheater and entertainment district. Those plans fell through last fall and the team dropped the request for the money.
Mr. Kass said Continental and the Steelers are committed to starting the entertainment complex this year. He said they hope to go before the Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority board soon for approval and to purchase the land needed for the project.
"This is a project we need to start in 2008. That's what everyone's looking at," he said.
While the Steelers had been seeking to partner with AEG on the new complex, Mr. Kass indicated that other potential operators could be part of the mix as well.
"We're working with a couple of different operators, zeroing in on what it is and who is going to run it," he said.
It would be the first of its kind in Pittsburgh, and the team is hoping it would work in concert with other venues already on the North Shore, such as Jerome Bettis Grille 36, named after the former Steelers running back.
AEG owns and operates several major sports and entertainment venues, including the Staples Center in Los Angeles. A subsidiary, AEG Live, teamed with Nokia to develop Nokia Theatre Times Square, a 2,100-seat theater for concerts, special events and other live entertainment at Broadway and 44th Street in New York City. It has developed similar venues in Dallas/Fort Worth and Los Angeles.