The Stadium Authority that Will Not Die
Nearly 20 years after Three Rivers Stadium was imploded, the authority created to build and manage it in 1964 is still in business. As we have been writing for years, the Stadium Authority was supposed to go out of business once Three Rivers Stadium ceased to exist. Instead, the Authority retained ownership of a couple of property parcels on the North Shore over which they would have a voice in development. Much of that property has been developed with only a few parcels remaining.
Today the Authority owns parking garages next to Heinz Field and PNC Park on General Robinson Street. It has no staff of their own but share personnel, including the director, with the City-County Sports and Exhibition Authority (SEA). The Authority’s primary function is to use revenues from two parking garages to pay off the bond debt associated with them. Through an agreement with City Council in 2013, they were to go out of business in 2028 when the 15-year debt to pay off the garage on General Robinson Street was to be satisfied.
But hold on just a moment. After a recent refinancing of that garage debt, the Stadium Authority has just voted to stay its demise for an additional 21 years, until 2049. Of course they did. But which came first, the refinancing or the vote to extend? Obviously, the extension would not have been necessary otherwise. One can only imagine how many more things the Authority could get up to during the next 30 years. This is a story straight from the mind of the late-great George Romero—the Authority that wouldn’t die.
The Stadium Authority, and SEA, director claims that merging the Stadium Authority with another authority, such as the SEA, or even the Urban Redevelopment Authority, or even more appropriately the Parking Authority, would not be prudent. Hold on a minute. The Stadium Authority could sell the parking garages to the Parking Authority and use the proceeds to pay off its debt. Now that would be prudent and it would get rid of an Authority that was made obsolete by the destruction of Three Rivers and should have gone out of business 18 years ago.
The Mayor’s Chief of Staff is quoted as saying “a reorganization or merger of the stadium authority with another public entity may require additional transactions costs without significant public benefit.” How many lawyers would be required to do the paper work? And selling the garages to the Parking Authority and terminating the Stadium Authority would free up the cost of paying the part time director and other administrative staff at SEA for their Stadium Authority work—all out of revenues from the garages. That sounds like a benefit.
So there you have it. Something that should go away won’t go away. Even though everyone knows that the Stadium Authority has outlived its original function. The reasons for keeping it do not even rise to the level of flimsy. A perfect illustration of public policy Pittsburgh style.