Alco Parking president drawing flak for Chesney remarks
Steelers criticize parking magnate
July 12, 2013 4:00 PM
Workers clean up the Carnegie Science Center parking lot across from Heinz Field after the Kenny Chesney concert.
By Mark Belko Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Steelers and parking magnate Merrill Stabile won't be singing Kenny Chesney's "Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me" any time soon.
The football team, through its PSSI Stadium LLC arm, has fired off an angry letter to the city's Stadium Authority complaining about the comments Mr. Stabile, president of Alco Parking, made after Mr. Chesney's concert at Heinz Field last month.
Mr. Stabile retorted in his own letter that the team, to use the title of another of Mr. Chesney's songs, "Got a Little Crazy" in maligning him.
In the July 1 missive, Jimmie Sacco, PSSI's director of stadium management, charged that Mr. Stabile "chose to publicly slander the fans at Heinz Field, which caused serious concerns for Mr. Chesney's management" and that his comments could jeopardize future concerts at the venue. PSSI has worked in conjunction with promoter partner North Shore Entertainment Works to bring shows to Heinz Field.
"Mr. Stabile," the letter stated, "took it upon himself to do a series of interviews on television, radio and newspapers complaining about the fans who attended the concert. Apparently, Mr. Stabile's main complaint was that the Chesney fans left behind too much garbage."
He urged the Stadium Authority to call Mr. Stabile on the carpet to explain his "inexplicable actions."
The concert, which drew 49,042 fans, generated widespread media attention in part because of the rampant drinking associated with it and massive amount of garbage that fans left behind in the parking lots -- 50,000 to 60,000 pounds of trash, according to one estimate. That included half-eaten food, bottles, cans, broken furniture, portable pools, and buckets and boxes that were used as toilets.
Mr. Sacco said in his letter that Mr. Stabile had ignored several suggestions made earlier in the year to help stage events more safely and efficiently. They included pre-selling parking spaces only to those who have tickets to the show, giving away trash bags to each vehicle as it enters the parking lot, and adding more trash receptacles.
Mr. Stabile, who also has tangled with the Steelers over North Shore development issues, said Thursday he was "appalled" by the criticism.
In his response, Mr. Stabile accused Mr. Sacco of making "incorrect and misleading" assertions.
For one, Mr. Stabile said he did not orchestrate any of the media attention, but simply responded to inquiries from the media about the clean-up efforts after the Chesney show.
"My philosophy in solving a problem is to first acknowledge that there IS one," he wrote. "Therefore, I saw no benefit in stonewalling the media or denying that there was a problem. I saw more benefit in being proactive and acknowledging that the volume of garbage was extremely high and that WE (Alco Parking) need to do better for future events of this nature."
"The recurring themes of my comments were that even though 80-90 percent of the fans behaved responsibly, there was a higher volume of garbage and more crowd control problems than any other event of the year, and while we do not want to kill the event, we would like to control it better."
Contrary to Mr. Sacco's assertion that Alco ignored suggestions to improve the staging of events, Mr. Stabile said he implemented all of them except for the prepaid parking. He added he could not do the parking this year because of timing issues, but intends to do it next year.
The Stadium Authority has contracts with Mr. Stabile to manage the lots around the stadiums.
Michael Danovitz, the authority's board chairman, declined comment Thursday. Wes Vause, a publicist for Mr. Chesney, could not be reached for comment. Mr. Sacco declined to discuss the letter, saying it speaks for itself.
Mary Conturo, the stadium authority executive director, said her focus in the aftermath of the concert has been on improving it for next year.
"We all think there are aspects of the parking and the tailgating with respect to the event that can be improved upon. In that regard, we have already had a follow-up meeting with Alco, the Steelers and the police. Everybody participated and there was a lot of good discussion about what to do differently next year," she said.
Suggestions so far have included implementing the prepaid parking and increasing the number of trash cans. She said Alco is preparing a set of recommendations.
As for whether Mr. Stabile's comments jeopardized future shows, Ms. Conturo referred questions to Mr. Sacco.
Mr. Stabile, in an interview Thursday, maintained that the PSSI letter was a "feeble attempt on the part of Mr. Sacco's superiors to set me up as the fall guy if the concert doesn't occur again."
In his letter, Mr. Stabile stated he had no regrets about anything he said.
"Furthermore, if the Steeler organization is waiting for an apology from me, I can only characterize my sentiments with a title to an old country western song: 'If The Phone Don't Ring, It's Me!' "