Steelers' plans for Heinz Field scoreboard advancing

The Steelers are moving ahead with plans to install a second scoreboard at Heinz Field, even though they have yet to reach a deal with the stadium’s owner over who will pay for it — or a 3,000-seat expansion.

Team officials will brief the city planning commission Tuesday on the proposed 35-foot by 73-foot scoreboard, which would be added to the third level of the northwest side of Heinz Field.

The Steelers are seeking planning commission approval now for the new high-definition scoreboard in hopes that construction can begin in the offseason should the team reach a deal with the Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority on funding, said Mark Hart, director of strategic planning and development.

The SEA owns Heinz Field.

The team would like to have the scoreboard in place for the start of the 2014 season.

“This is a greatly anticipated project that we can begin if we settle our dispute,” Hart said.

The fact the Steelers are willing to seek city approvals for the scoreboard project, estimated to cost $3.65 million, at this time could be an indication that they are closer to a deal with the SEA on funding for it and the additional seats in the south end zone.

Both sides have been negotiating under the supervision of Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Robert J. Colville to try to reach a settlement.

Hart said that the parties are “having regular working meetings” but declined to say what kind of progress was being made. “We are continuing to work to reach a settlement and hopefully avoid a December trial.”

“All I can say is we’re still talking,” said Walter DeForest III, the SEA’s attorney.

If the two sides can’t reach an agreement, a trial is scheduled Dec. 4 before Common Pleas Judge Joseph James.

The Steelers filed an lawsuit against the SEA last fall over the $30 million seat expansion, the scoreboard addition and the installation of a new control room at Heinz Field.

It did so after a deal to fund the seat expansion through surcharges on tickets and game day parking around Heinz Field collapsed.

In the lawsuit, the team maintained the SEA is responsible for funding two thirds of the cost under a section of the Heinz Field lease that involves designated expansions of no more than 10,000 seats.

But the SEA argued that the Steelers first must show that similar modifications have been made to at least half of the other NFL stadiums with at least 25 percent of the cost covered by federal, state or local governments and meet other criteria for the expansion to be considered a capital improvement that qualifies for funding under the lease.

In a preliminary ruling in June, Judge James sided with the SEA, saying the Steelers failed to show that the proposed expansion met the requirements to qualify as a capital improvement.

Hart said Heinz Field might be the only stadium left in the NFL without multiple scoreboards.

Because of the ongoing litigation, the Steelers have said that the 3,000 new seats won’t be installed until the 2015 season, assuming an agreement is reached on funding.

Mark Belko: and 412-263-1262.

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