PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Seventeen years of summers filled with baseball have taken a toll on PNC Park on Pittsburgh’s North Shore.
Like any home, repairs and upgrades are a natural part of the aging process. Or as Pirates President Frank Coonelly put it last year while showing off the updates to the ballpark, “Our commitment is to continue to maintain PNC Park as the best ballpark in America and that takes quite a bit of commitment in terms of investment of dollars, energy and forethought.”
When it comes to the dollars, each of us pay a 5 percent surcharge on every ticket to create a “repair fund.” The Pirates get $1.5 million from that fund each year with most of the rest going to the Sports and Exhibition Authority. The Pirates can request reimbursement from that fund for repairs and upgrades necessary to maintain the building.
Now it’s important to understand that the Pirates are tenants at PNC Park with a long-term lease. The facility is owned by the Sports and Exhibition Authority (SEA). It the same relationship the SEA has with the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.
During the off-season last year, the Pirates did about $10 million worth of updates to the ballpark. The team felt $4.5 million qualified for reimbursement from the SEA and filed the request. This week, the SEA agreed to pay about $2.5 million, leaving the Pirates on the hook for almost $2 million.
The SEA says the repairs and upgrades to the suites and club levels were beyond what was necessary. The team spent $ 1.1 million on the new 136-foot long LED High Definition Out of Town scoreboard at the base of the Clemente wall in right field. The SEA agreed to reimburse less than 1/3 of that cost, saying that would be the amount needed to repair and update the old scoreboard.
The Pirates feel the expenditures are “covered” under the team’s lease and will continue to try and negotiate with the SEA for reimbursement. The SEA says it’s willing to talk but feels justified in its decisions. The team says if talking doesn’t work, third party intervention may be needed. The lease calls for the possibility of an arbitrator, but the team says it would not rule out asking a court to get involved.