How to stop the pirating & stealing

How to stop the pirating & stealing

Sala Udin and Wayne Fontana are wringing their bureaucratic hands in the aftermath of a new deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates to add a $1 per ticket surcharge for baseball and other events to pay for a major scoreboard upgrade and other improvements at PNC Park.

That’s on top of an existing 5 percent ticket surcharge that goes into a fund to help pay for such major improvements.

And that means PNC Park patrons will be paying for the improvements. As it should be.

The city-county Sports & Exhibition Authority (SEA), on July 14, approved an amendment to the lease that governs the Pirates’ tenancy in the mostly taxpayer-financed North Shore edifice to professional sports wealthfare.

But SEA board member Udin laments that the Pirates also should be forced in its yet-to-be negotiated new lease (beginning in 2031) to share higher revenues made possible by such enhancements with the SEA, which owns the ballpark (along with the professional football stadium and hockey arena) on behalf of the public.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the SEA board, state Sen. Fontana, laments that that the additional surcharge won’t generate the kind of money necessary to keep pace with the need to pay for improvements — unless the Pirates put a more competitive team on the field.

And he intimates that when naming rights are up for the baseball stadium (a 10-year extension expires with the lease), some of that money, which now goes exclusively to the franchise, should be shared with the SEA for any stadium improvements.

“(If) we’re going to own this building and have to put up with the increased costs that come along with it 25 years later, not just technology but everything else, it’s way more money,” Fontana said. “We need to figure out ways to finance that.”

Never mind that there’s a far more straightforward way to tackle this issue: That would be getting the government out of the business of building and owning sports facilities for the very – very – rich barons of sport.

In fact, it should be illegal. And, in further fact, it most assuredly already was when Pittsburgh’s professional sports facilities were built – and still is — based on Article VIII, Section 8, of the Pennsylvania Constitution:

The credit of the Commonwealth shall not be pledged or loaned to any individual, company, corporation or association nor shall the Commonwealth become a joint owner or stockholder in any company, corporation or association.

Be that as it may, the provision is roundly pooh-poohed by elected and appointed leaders so full of hubris that they believe the state charter does not apply to them.

In actuality, the only “lease negotiations” that take place ahead of the 2030 expiration of the Pirates’ lease at PNC Park should be the ones that convey to the franchise that ballpark and the land upon which it sits, return the tract and structure to the tax rolls and make the Pirates solely responsible for all upkeep and maintenance.

And, as we’ve noted before, the Steelers should be treated the same.

That never will happen, of course. But until the handwringing “leaders” such as Sala Udin and Wayne Fontana push for such a commonsense change, this dog and pony show will continue.

The negotiation of new leases is the perfect opportunity to stop three decades of public pirating and stealing.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).