City, parking officials bracing for Heinz Field festivities this weekend
June 20, 2014 6:29 AM
Boats are already tied up along the North Shore near Heinz Field for the weekend's country music concert.
By Michael Majchrowicz / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
After 49,000 fans left behind a sea of trash last year at a country music concert, city officials are bracing for what some described as “the party event of the year” Saturday at Heinz Field.
Luke Bryan will take the stage Saturday, and 50,000 fans, many of whom will pile into the stadium after tailgate festivities, will greet him.
Officials hope that preparations for Saturday’s concert will help avoid the problems that followed the Kenny Chesney concert last June, when the crowd left behind mounds of leftover food, liquor bottles and beer cans.
The trash also included baby pools that were used as large beer coolers and cardboard boxes crafted into makeshift toilets.
Katelyn Krayer, 27, attended the concert last June. She remembers the scattered glass shards, “serious lack of trash cans” and the stench of urine and beer.
“Out of control,” Ms. Krayer said of the pre-concert party. “[There were] people yelling, in states of undress ... let’s just say if my mother had been there, she would not have approved.”
It was clear that people were at least attempting to dispose of garbage in the trash cans, because there was garbage piled around the overflowing receptacles, she said.
“That was a major part of the problem,” Ms. Krayer said. “If these people weren’t near a trash can, they’d throw
whatever was in their hands on the ground.”
Ms. Krayer emphasized that increased security might curtail littering and belligerent behavior.
Alco Parking operates most lots near Heinz Field, and the firm’s president, Merrill Stabile, said that this year things will be different.
“We’re prepared as if it were [the] Chesney crowd last year,” he said. “We’re preparing for whatever could potentially happen in a crowd of this size.”
This year, 120 portable toilet units have been brought in, up from 80 last year, and concert-goers will be given trash and recycling bags. Last year, just recycling bags were given out.
And on Saturday, only groups with prepaid parking passes, purchased with their concert tickets, will be admitted to the parking lots.
Mr. Stabile said the same number of trash cans and dumpsters will be available this year, although the dumpsters being provided are larger and will hold more trash..
“Basically, we’re trying to minimize the amount of partying in the parking lot,” he said.
An uproar over the debris followed the Chesney concert, and there were suggestions that Chesney and his shows should be banned from future events in Pittsburgh.
On Saturday, the cleanup will begin at the same time the show is getting started. That’s when Leroy Stolter and crews from his Three Rivers Power Sweep in Apollo will begin working.
“The patrons’ unwillingness to clean up for themselves even a little bit is shocking,” said Mr. Stolter. “We prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” he said, adding that the “sheer volume” is the most astounding part of what he sees after such events..
With this year’s preparations in place, Mr. Stolter said he is confident Saturday will not see a repeat of last year.
“We want people to know that they will be expected to leave the field and go into the concert,” said Mr. Stabile. “After the concert’s over, police will be back an hour after. Police patrols will step back up.”
It is expected that uniformed and plain-clothes police officers will make rounds about an hour after the concert begins to escort people out of the parking area.
Sonya Toler, Pittsburgh public safety spokeswoman, said a plan for patron safety at the event was still being developed Thursday.
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