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Steigerwald: Another Article About an On-Campus Stadium

Pitt Stadium from Cardiac Hill By Crazypaco at English Wikipedia | CC BY 2.5

Steigerwald: Another Article About an On-Campus Stadium

Suggest to someone that Pitt needs to build a football stadium on campus and you’ll probably be dismissed as a dreamer. Especially if that someone is in the local media.

That’s what I’ve found out over the last two weeks after writing a couple of columns on the subject.

Welcome to column number three on the subject.

Anthony DeFiore is a Pitt graduate, who also happens to have a Masters in city planning from NYU and has done zoning and development work in Philadelphia. He says it would be “easy” for Pitt to find the money and the space for a 40,000 seat stadium on campus.

When the idea is dismissed the number one reason is that there is nowhere to put a stadium. DeFiore has found a spot where he says it, “would fit like a glove” – on the OC lot, where people now park for basketball games at The Pete.

The cost? He says a “bare bones” 40,000-seat stadium could be built for $125 million and one with “every bell and whistle” would be about $200 million.

Where would that money come from?

DeFiore claims that a lot of wealthy people went to Pitt and it wouldn’t be hard to raise multi-millions from them and he says Pitt could pay for it by floating a Pitt municipal bond at around four percent.

No tax dollars needed.

There would also be millions of dollars available for the naming rights. He warns that the costs to build will go up fast and within five years they would probably be too high to make it work.

DeFiore has designed a stadium that he says would be one of the most intimidating places in the country for a visiting football team. It would also house the Pitt athletic offices, class rooms, lockers and training facilities and could be used for high school football games and concerts.

Have you heard of HOK? That’s the company that designed  stadiums, ball parks and arenas all over the country including, PNC Park, Heinz Field and  the arena for the Penguins now known as PPG Paints Arena.

It’s now known as Populous and was hired to do a study of Pitt’s athletic facilities.

According to a release put out by Pitt last June, Populous was retained to, “Devise a comprehensive athletics master plan to address both the short-term and long-term needs of the athletic department administrative units and varsity programs.”

Does it make sense to hire a company like HOK/Populous that is known world wide for building stadiums and arenas if you’re not going to make the feasibility of a football stadium part of the study?

According to a spokesperson at Populous, there is no plan to investigate the feasibility of or design for a football stadium

The embarrassing empty seats for Friday’s game at Heinz Field for the Pitt-Miami game are likely to get people debating the issue again.

Populous has an office in Pittsburgh, conveniently enough.

Scott Barnes was the Athletic Director when Populous was hired last year. Current AD Heather Lyke has the company’s phone number. How about adding a football stadium to the study, if for no other reason than to stop the debate by saying that world renowned experts on stadium feasibility have said there is no way to fit a football stadium on Pitt’s Oakland campus?

Former Pitt players like John Pelusi and Jimbo Covert, who have made lots of money outside of football, have been trying to convince Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher to make a serious attempt at putting football games back on campus.

They have told him that they could raise the money needed.

ESPN’s announcing crew has already made fun of all the yellow seats that they expect to see at Heinz Field for Friday’s game with Miami. Unless Lyke was able to find a tarp big enough to cover them all, they’re going to see plenty. That will mean that a nationally televised game on a day when lots of Americans will be watching football, instead of a being a huge recruiting tool, will be a major turnoff to recruits and their parents all over the country.

There’s a plan for a stadium out there and people willing to raise the money to pay for it. Pitt owes it to alumni everywhere to take it seriously or find someone with a better idea.

What’s becoming less debatable every day is that moving to Heinz Field was a bad idea.

It was.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker

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