Seats solution: Negotiations could solve the Heinz Field impasse

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Talk may be cheap, but not talking can be expensive.

Fortunately, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority have decided to sit down and try to sort out their differences over who should pay how much to install another 3,000 seats at Heinz Field.

The SEA, which owns Heinz Field on behalf of the public, was sued last fall over the issue by the Steelers, the stadium's chief tenant under a long-term lease. The team believes that, under the lease, the SEA is obligated to fund two-thirds of the $30 million expansion. The authority disagrees, contending that the Steelers must first show that similar additions have been made to at least half of the other NFL stadiums with at least a quarter of the cost paid by government funds.

We still like the outlines of a tentative plan, sketched out a year ago, that would have put the bulk of the costs on Heinz Field users, through a $1 ticket surcharge and a $2 to $3 surcharge on nearby parking. That would have been enough to cover a $20 million bond issue, but the proposal fell through.

Fast-forward 12 months and the contentious matter is still before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Joseph James. It's another year of delay and another season without an additional 3,000 fans in the seats.

A Steelers executive said last Thursday that if the parties could come to terms in a few weeks, the new seats could debut in 2014. But that will take a huddle in which all the players listen and more than one calls the play.

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