The city-Allegheny County Sports and Exhibition Authority today disputed the Steelers' contention that it is obligated to pay two-thirds of the cost of a proposed 3,000-seat expansion at Heinz Field.
SEA attorney Walter DeForest told Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Joseph James that the proposed expansion does not meet the definition of a capital improvement under the Steelers' stadium lease.
To comply with the definition, the capital improvement must be in place in at least half of all NFL stadiums where at least 25 percent of the cost is funded by federal, state, or local government.
"It is important to make clear that my client is not in breach of the lease," Mr. DeForest said.
Mr. DeForest said the Steelers also want the SEA to chip in for a new control room that cost $5 million and a proposed scoreboard on the north side of the stadium estimated at $3.6 million.
The Steelers have contended that the SEA is obligated to fund two thirds of the seat addition under a clause in the lease involving an expansion of less than 10,000 seats.
But Mr. DeForest argued that such an expansion first must meet the definition of a capital improvement.
Kevin J. Lucas, an attorney for the Steelers, said the team disagrees with the SEA's interpretation of the lease and will contest it in court.
The Steelers earlier this month filed notice of their intent to sue after being unable to reach an agreement with the SEA, the stadium's owner, on the expansion.
Under a proposed deal, the $38-$39 million expansion would have been funded through an additional ticket surcharge and a new parking surcharge that would have raised about $20 million for the SEA's share.
The Steelers would have paid the rest.
The deal fell apart, prompting the Steelers to take action.
Today's comments in and out of court came after a meeting with Judge James.
It was also disclosed in court that Buchanan Ingersoll Rooney, the law firm representing the Steelers, would withdraw and that new counsel would be obtained. No reason was given.
Mark Belko: email@example.com or 412-263-1262. First Published November 19, 2012 12:15 AM