Hal Turner, Editor in Chief
If a South Side Pitt fan gets his way, about $100 million worth of Pittsburgh sports developments will be postponed or canceled.
Mark Rauterkus handed City Council members three ring binders filled with the lyrics to Pitt's alma mater, the Pitt victory song and "Hail to Pitt" - and about 90 reasons not to cary out the athletics department's plans.
The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is planning a $30 million Pitt/Steelers practice and rehabilitation facility on a former steel mill site, the LTV site, in Rauterkus' neighborhood. If the facility is not built, it could put the brakes on Pitt's proposed stadium demolition.
But Rauterkus is vehemently opposing the entire plan, saying the time constraints are limiting the number of avenues Pitt, UPMC and the city Urban Redevelopment Agency are willing ton consider. Rauterkus collected the signature necessary to ask City Council for the special public hearing, the begged the council to not permit the practice facility's construction.
"We need a swift, stern message from City Council to go out to Pitt, UPMC, and the URA and the other power that be," Rauterkus said. "Their plans possess fatal flaws. The outcomes come up short. The citizens demand more."
No Pitt or UPMC representative was at the hearing. City Council President Bob O'Connor assured Rauterkus that all groups involved could make their case to the council later and debate before the nine members vote on the side of th LTV land to UPMC."
Rauterkus contends the facility would slam the whole region with problems, not just the South Side.
First, he said, the site is too small. Eighty-yard indoor fields will be built, similar to the field at Pitt's Cost Center, when two years ago a Pitt football player broke his neck running into a wall.
Second, the timing is bad considering the delays Pittsburgh is about to endure during extensive road consturction around Downtown. Pittsburgh will be gridlock, Rauterkus said, and this construction can only add to the problems.
The project upsets South Side residents worried about taxes, noise, bright lights, crowds and traffic; it worries Pitt students who want to see Pitt sports headquartered on campus; and it conflicts with several NCAA rules about college and professional teams sharing space, he said.
Rauterkus and NCAA officials have hinted that violations can be avoided, but Rauterkus believes it can only come at a great price involving too many scheduling sacrifices on the student-athletes' part.
Jerry Dettory, a represntative of the URA, said the neighborhood residents will no longer need to worry that the nonprofit, tax-exempt UPMC won't have to pay taxes. The company has agreede to make payments as though it weren't tax-exempt.
Also, UPMC will offer $75,000 to the South Side Planning Forum to distribute as it sees fit among neighobhood projects.
The indoor facilities will be available to public groups, such as football camps and YMCA special events, and Pitt, UPMC and the Steelers often will be involved, Dettory said.
He added that while the plans may seem inadequate to some now, no definite blueprints have been drawn up.
"There is no final plan," he said. "It
The article ends in mid-statement. Not typo on the blog. The article will be put into its rightful date in a few days.
The 'blast from the past' re-looks at an issue that got my blood to a boil about politics. This was my first big brush with Bob O'Connor and those on city council. At the time, Michael Diven was on council too. Diven was a football player as well.
At the time, in the hearing, much was said beyond the snip of news coverage. I didn't stress problems with traffic and downtown being torn apart (Ft. Pitt Bridge, North Side Stadiums, Convention Center construction, no Hot Metal Bridge yet (nor pedestrian passings on the Hot Metal Bridge (still not completed).
The one suggestion as an alternative was to put a temporary practice facility on the site and then move the Steelers to a long-term home, along with Dr. Fu and UPMC in the top floors of parking garages on the North Side. Then the Steelers would have been able to stay, long term, at or near the North Side's stadium. Plus, the parking garages would have been put on a fast track.
Georgetown's football team in DC practices on a football field built on the roof of a parking garage.
Today, if the Steelers and UPMC Sports Medicine were on the North Side, the areas around the stadium would have already been developed. The Steelers and Pirates are WAY, WAY, WAY benind of thier promises to develop the land around the stadiums.
Today, we face the possibility of a casino going onto the North Side -- to the displeasure of the Rooneys and others. They should have taken a bigger footprint, be it vertical, in the area around the stadium for their prime uses -- football.
One of the other suggestions I put forth at that time called for a development effort of Hazelwood by the University of Pittsburgh. The new Peterson Event Center should have been built on Pitt's side of the river, around graduate student housing, along the river, behind Pitt's main campus. We'd be able to have a "River Campus" with a new basketball facility joined, perhaps, with a new hockey facility for the Penguins.
Bob O'Connor's eyes opened wide as we talked about these suggestions. He loved the idea. He said, "To bad these ideas didn't come up a few months earlier." His objection was the timing.
My reply was that Pitt Stadium has survived for 75 years. It could still make it another year. Pitt was okay with its practice facility needs. The Steelers needed a field. But, the Steelers already had Duquesne University and that bubble too.
The objections didn't wash.
Now as we still look at Hazelwood -- we see a squandered opportunity.
Now, as we still moan about equal opportunities for females -- we still have Pitt with a guys only state-of-the-art (but still not regulation sized) facility!
The trend..... they thought small. I wanted them to do better. What they put on the table wasn't good enough.
I went to the first football practice at the new facility. The coaches had put orange cones on the 10-yard line (outdoor) and ran around shouting -- "Ten 's the goal!" They played with the goal at the 10-yard line so as to make for more of a buffer past the endline.
Red Zone Hypnotics has been used to various stages of success with teams since then.