Thursday, April 12, 2012

Steelers to add 3,000 seats at Heinz Field

 NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!  That was my immediate reaction when I heard about the Steelers petitioning the NFL to add 3,000 extra seats in 2013.  This would completely sucketh.  Now, you're probably thinking - "Jesus Christ, Saf!  Why would you have a problem with this?"  Wouldn't more seats translate into a better chance of scoring a freebie ticket?   Yes, I will concede this point.  But hear me out...

When I saw the article, I immediately knew they'd be serving up a can of "eminent domain whoop-ass" on the South end zone.  Seriously, where else you gonna construct 3,000 new seats?  Those Rooney bastards (whom I have the utmost respect for) are going to eviscerate the standing room area underneath the scoreboard.  This is my home.  This is where my heart is.

Commonly referred to as the Steel Pit, I've always preferred the general admission area at Heinz Field.  It's a place where the disaffected drunks and transient fans (if they're morbidly obese, I refer to them as Steelers trans-fats) tend to gather.  The stench of cigar smoke, a used condom on a bed of discarded nachos, an errant belch from a Zelienople dirtbag, a terrible towel someone secretly used to wipe their ass... these are the sights, sounds and smells of the southern end zone.  Steelers' management wants to take this away?  Heartless bastards.

I've been in every inch of that stadium.  From front row on the 50 yard line to the PP seats in the 500 level.  Row PP stands for Piss seats in Peanut heaven.  I've been in the swanky, luxury boxes and I've freely roamed the sacred 200 level.  All these areas have one thing in common.  They don't hold a candle to the pit.

I know what the Rooneys are thinking.  They see these large swaths of empty yellow seats during the regular season.  Then they surmise... well, if we get rid of the general admission area, fans will eventually head back to their actual seats.   Bad assumption.  The real problem is that from time to time, thousands of fans just don't show up.  Does anyone remember that Rams game from last year right before the playoffs?  Yep, over 5,000 no-shows.  Truth be told, there's almost always about 1,200 "fans" that bail (except when we play the Ravens).  And when the weather is bad, the Steelers "faithful" grows particularly disinterested.  It's all these old-school Allegheny types.  They reason... I basked in the 70's, got Bubbied in the 80's and was Cowhered in the 90's.  I've paid my dues.  If it's a torrential downpour in the freezing cold, I'll just watch the game on my 69" Samsung high def.   Either it's them or the millionaire yuppies from Upper St. Clair who simply could give a fuck.  They'd rather eat the tickets than inconvenience their friends with adjacent PSLs.

My point is this.  Fan enthusiasm levels are going to take a hit.  That area feeds off the energy of the whole stadium.  The coolest part of the experience is watching the game unfold on the widescreen.  When newly signed Leonard Pope catches a touchdown pass, you turn your head and hear the roar of 64,380.  Yeah, you heard it here.  I'm a Leonard Pope fan.  I had him on my fantasy team ages ago when he was an Arizona Cardinal.  I usually picked players with contradictory existences to my own.  Jabar Gaffney, Mushhead Mohammad,  Tim Tebow...  As an atheist Jew, I was always gunning for this hostile ethnic mix of Muslims and Christians.  Maybe throw in a Samoan or two (never underestimate Afa and/or Sika).  Keeps the players engaged and the team energized!

And you know what's really sad?  All these extra seats will make the Pitt Panthers games look even worse.  They usually draw about 20 thousand something.   Last year, I was driving by the stadium on a Saturday afternoon.  I exited the tunnel, stared off to my left and saw the Goodyear blimp.  I looked below and saw a virtually empty stadium on a spectacular day.  Their opponent may have been Rutgers (whose President I'm a huge fan of - Richard L. McCormick recently sent me a personalized letter postmarked March 12, 2012).  But regardless of who they were playing, Heinz Field looked abysmal.  Proportionately worse than a Wheeling Nailers game at the Webanco Arena.  Now that is bad.  The university really needs to figure out a way to put fans in the seats.  Maybe they could parlay all the recent bomb threats.  Shoot for the sympathy angle.  Much like Giants Stadium getting the Superbowl this year because of the decade 9/11 anniversary.  Pitt fans unite.  Maybe I'll write a blog about how to increase attendance for Pitt Panther games.  There must be a way.

And the worst part... in the event of a stampede, I was always within 100 feet of the exit.  Now I'll be forced against my will into the 500 level.  I'll likely be trampled or crush asphyxiated with all the other yinzers.   Not cool.


sonofsaf said...

One more thought. I realize the seats will sell (probably in the "lower" $68 - $80 range). The Steelers season ticket waiting list is longer than the biblical testimonial list of who begat whom.

I'm more concerned about the visual optics when they have a few down seasons (6-10) like Cowher had in the late 90's. Three Rivers had huge chunks of empty seats.

Remember what happened to the Bills. After their multiple Superbowl runs, they expanded Rich Stadium from the 60 thousand something to 80,000. Now there massive chunks of empty seats and they're splitting time in Toronto, Canada. And don't forget the Jags. They had to cover up most of the entire upper level. I'll concede that these franchises are markedly different and lackluster small market economies are a factor but...

I just think the Rooney family should reconsider their motivation - likely fueled by short term greed. Heinz Field is big enough. Don't take away the pit. If for no other reason, Chuck Billy of Testament will never have the opportunity to say he went "into the pit."

Anonymous said...

What team colored their seats to make it appear as though it was packed?

sonofsaf said...

Gugum - excellent query. That would be the New Orleans Saints who historically suffered from weak attendance in the Superdome.

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