The city-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority board agreed Thursday to look at adding 3,000 seats around the main scoreboard in the south end zone at Heinz Field.
By Mark Belko Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Steelers are formulating a game plan to add 3,000 seats to Heinz Field in time for the 2013 football season.
At the request of the team, the city-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority board approved a resolution Thursday to further explore and discuss the scope, design, timing and funding for the additions.
SEA executive director Mary Conturo said the authorization was needed so that the team could take its proposal for the new seats to the National Football League for approval, possibly in May.
All seats would be added in the stadium's south end zone near the scoreboard. Mark Hart, the Steelers' director of strategic planning and development, said the team hopes to start construction of the new seats after the upcoming season and have them completed by August 2013.
The club hopes to begin marketing the seats for sale sometime this summer after it has obtained the necessary approvals and devised a plan to fund the project, estimated at $30 million to $35 million.
Heinz Field has "been a catalyst for development around the North Shore. This is really the next phase in maintaining Heinz Field as a world-class facility," Mr. Hart said. "We look forward to working with the SEA in improving Heinz Field and increasing its capacity."
The stadium currently seats 65,050 people and routinely sells out for Steelers games.
As part of the new project, the Steelers plan to raise the plaza at the south end of the stadium, build a club level and revise the entry gates. Mr. Hart said the team is limited by the design and architecture in that end zone to adding no more than 3,000 seats.
"If we could fit in more seats, we certainly would like to do that. If, at some point in the future, we figure out a way to do it, we will do it," he said.
Mr. Hart said the Steelers have yet to establish a price range for the tickets. They are still in the midst of determining how the new seats will be marketed. At least some most likely will be offered to fans who are on a lengthy waiting list to buy season tickets.
The Steelers have said in the past that if seating were added, it would include some general seating, reserve seating and possibly some club seating.
While the team has yet to decide how to pay for construction of the new seats, possible sources could include revenue from a surcharge on tickets. The Steelers also may sell personal seat licenses, a fee a fan plays for the right to buy season tickets, as a means of raising money.
"I think personal seat licenses will certainly be part of the funding mix," Mr. Hart said.
The team raised an estimated $40 million through the sale of personal seat licenses before Heinz Field opened in 2001 and used the money toward its $123 million share of the stadium's $281 million cost. Many of those licenses, which are owned by the fans who purchase them, have soared in value because of the popularity of the team and the demand for tickets.
If the Steelers move forward with the expansion, it won't be the first. The team added more than 700 club seats in the north end zone before the 2006 season.
Also on Thursday, the board approved a development and maintenance agreement for construction of a World War II Memorial on the North Shore. Mark Schneider, president of the memorial fund, said organizers are close to raising the $4.5 million needed for the tribute. Construction is expected to start in late spring or early summer. Maintenance would be funded through a $600,000 endowment provided by the memorial fund. The memorial is to be built at the top of the Great Lawn of the North Shore Riverfront Park, between Heinz Field and the Del Monte building.