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Steelers’ purchase of North Shore land was a steal

Pittsburgh, like many cities, is in the midst of a protracted budgetary crisis. A $700 million deficit in the city’s pension fund has led to proposals like last year’s tuition tax and this year’s parking lease, which would allow a private operator to control parking meters and garages. In short, the city is desperate to raise money wherever it can.

It thus came as an unwelcome surprise to Pittsburgh residents when it was revealed that the Steelers and their corporate partners bought a prime piece of land on the North Side from the city’s Stadium Authority for about 8 percent of its market value. With the city’s current financial situation, such a deal was irresponsible both for Pittsburgh and for the Steelers.

The land in question, between Heinz Field and PNC Park, was purchased from the Stadium Authority in late 2008 for the purpose of building a new amphitheater. The 172,454-square-foot parcel sold for $1.38 million, according to research by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. That is about $8 per square foot, as opposed to the $75 to $119 per square foot that other North Shore properties sold for at that time. If the Steelers had bought the area at market rates, the city could have received an additional $19 million. While that would not have solved Pittsburgh’s financial woes, it would have been a step in the right direction.

Instead, the Steelers managed to buy this prime real estate for about 10 percent of what they pay Ben Roethlisberger in a season. All they had to do was promise the city that the new amphitheater wouldn’t be commercially sponsored. So when Stage AE — which does, in fact, stand for American Eagle — opens for its first show, we hope a $19 million check to Pittsburgh will be coming soon after.