Will the Pittsburgh Steelers Heinz Field ‘Upgrade’ Ever Happen?


The Pittsburgh Steelers home on the north shore was opened its gates back in 2001.  Since then, the stadium has seen very little, in fact, no seating upgrades or changes.  The Steelers seemed ever so close to making that happen back in 2012, but the team has encountered hurdle after hurdle in getting final approval for the work.  The dispute between the city and the team has made its way to and through the courts system.  A judge has recently pushed a trial that was to happen within a few weeks back to May 19th.  At best, the stadium won’t see any upgrades until after the 2014 season…. if ever at all.

In 2012, the Steelers made a proposal to increase the capacity of Heinz Field from 65,050 to 68,000.  The seating banks would be built on the south end of the stadium, partially blocking the view to downtown Pittsburgh as well as making the stadium a little less ‘open ended – something kickers have struggled with since the stadium opened.  The cost of the project is slated at $30 million.  Originally, the owners of Heinz Field, Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority board, passed a resolution to plan the expansion shortly after the Steelers proposed the expansion.  However, since then the sides have been split on whether the team’s lease defines the additional seats as an authority-funded “capital improvement” or a team-funded stadium “modification.”  Basically is the team or the citizens of Pittsburgh on the hook for paying the bill.

In this most recent state of events, the Steelers filed a motion to push the trial back because they felt they could still work out a deal with the Sports Authority.  In other words, the Steelers got word that a trial might not go in their favor and don’t want to be left holding the entirety of the bill.

Heinz Field is currently the 7th smallest stadium for capacity in the NFL (believe it or not, the newer Ford Field and Lucas Oil Stadium are smaller).  Now that New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium has entered the arena (no pun intended) for Super Bowl venues, I’m sure that every single stadium out there, along with its city, will be salivating for the big game.  Could a 3,000 boost in seating capacity help the city’s chances at landing an outdoor Super Bowl (assuming SB XLVIII doesn’t forever scrap the idea)?  Couldn’t hurt.

But personally, I’m a bit partial to that beautiful view out of the south end.  And, Heinz Field may lose it’s legend and mystique as being a nightmare for visiting kickers.  Is 3,000 seats ‘worth’ it?  Only if the team/NFL pays for it and not the good citizens of the ‘Burgh.