Fan advisory council provides insight

The game day experience at Heinz Field is about more than just the action on the field, and while the team works hard each year to improve everything that its fans see, hear and do on game days, the team wanted to find more ways to include the ideas of its fans.

As part of that effort, the Steelers launched its Season Ticket Holder Advisory Council two years ago, intended to further gauge the overall fan experience at Heinz Field on game days - and even during the offseason.

The group has allowed select season ticket holders have had the opportunity to voice their opinions to the team, with the individuals doing their best to represent the entire fan base through a series of small group meetings.

"We had 10 members the first year, and expanded that with another eight people this March," said Ben Lentz, the Steelers ticket manager. "The goal is to have two-year terms with a senior group of 10 and a smaller group of eight, and then just keep rotating them over that two-year term, keeping the voices and opinions fresh."

Lentz spearheaded the formation of this group after surveys the Steelers sent out to their season ticket holders didn't generate the information regarding fan engagement that he hoped it would.

"We were just looking for a small group, a wide variety of season ticket holders, to give us feedback," said Lentz. "A one-on-one discussion that surveys can't give us, so we decided that a small group would probably be the best way to attack that."

Tim Gleason, a season ticket holder who is his second year on the council, echoed Lentz's comments about the intimacy of the meetings.

"The meetings are professional think tanks where no idea is too small and no idea is too big, and where the Steelers are genuinely interested in hearing what we experience," said Gleason. "The Steelers want to know what it is that we are experiencing. I think it is a tribute on their part that they are so interested in wanting to know what our feelings are that they would even conduct a council."

According to Gleason, the board has been effective due to the cohesion and diversity of its members.

"We are all on the same team," said Gleason. "All of us are working together and we feed off of each other's ideas. We also all bring unique experiences to the table. The Steelers have done a nice job of getting a cross section of people. Each of us brings to the table a unique perspective."

Based on feedback the Steelers increased their signage on the south end of Heinz Field, as well as other changes, including honoring fans on the team's website with a weekly "Season Ticket Holder Spotlight."

It's all part of the Steelers dedication to fostering the best home environment in football.

"Fan behavior is something that the Steelers are very interested in," said Gleason. "Because some fans come to the game and they bring their families, and they want to have a good family experience."

The Season Ticket Holder Advisory Council idea is continuing to grow in popularity and effectiveness in the NFL and college sports, and shows no signs of slowing down.

"You just have to look within the city, when we were the first and Pitt, Penn State and the Pirates followed suit," said Lentz. "I would say this is now the trend."

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