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South Plaza project moving forward


The cliché is that good things come to those who wait, and for some dedicated Steelers fans that soon is going to translate into the chance to become season ticket-holders.

With the installation of an additional scoreboard in the northwest corner of Heinz Field to be completed in time for the start of the 2014 NFL season, the team now is moving ahead with plans to build what Steelers President Art Rooney II said will be between 2,500-3,000 additional seats in the South Plaza.

"The South Plaza project is in the final design phase," said Rooney. "Our architects are making final decisions in terms of locations of seats and numbers of seats, and things like that. There are basically two categories of seats. There are going to be some club seats and then there will be general reserved seats. These will all be full seats. These will not be bleacher seats."

And getting first crack at these will be the people on the Steelers' season ticket waiting list.

"We are in the process of notifying the oldest part of the waiting list that there's going to be an opportunity, potentially, to buy seat licenses and become season ticket-holders," said Rooney. "That process is going to go on over the summer, and so it's going to be a busy summer."

An exciting summer, too, for some Steelers fans who have spent almost two decades waiting for an opportunity to become season ticket-holders.

"The plan always was to sell these seats to fans on the waiting list," said Rooney. "We have some people who have been on the waiting list since 1995, and obviously we'd like to try to give those people an opportunity. They've been on the waiting list for a long time and have been very loyal, and so if we can offer them an opportunity to become season ticket-holders we'd like to try and do that."

View photos of local tradesmen working to construct a new scoreboard in the North West corner of Heinz Field.

Included in this process will be seat licenses. The Sports and Exhibition Authority has designated the Steelers to be the representative in terms of selling the seat licenses, and all of that money will go into the construction project. The value of many seat licenses at Heinz Field has quintupled since the building opened for the 2001 season.

"We actually did a survey with our fans on the waiting list earlier this year, and one thing we were able to determine is that a high percentage of them are attending games already," said Rooney. "They're active in buying tickets in the secondary market, and we can tell from the survey that these are people who really want to attend our games. Over the years we've tried to offer them opportunities for individual game tickets and things like that. As best as we can tell, these are loyal fans who are anxious to become season ticket-holders."

Rooney said the initial offering will be for a maximum of four seat licenses per customer. He also said that the project calls for the South Plaza to be raised, with the general reserved seating to be above the new club seats. He also indicated that fans who have come to enjoy congregating in the existing South Plaza still will be able to do so.

"We're going to be raising the South Plaza, so from the standpoint of being able to watch the game from the South Plaza this will actually be a better location. It will be a little higher up," said Rooney. "I think this is going to be a very popular part of Heinz Field, this South Plaza area. It'll be one level up from where it is today. It will be accessible from both sides of the stadium. It also will have a great view out to the river and to the Point, and so I think it's going to be a great area.

"The club seats will start at the bottom and go up through the middle of the construction project, but the majority of the club seats will be at the field level. They'll be what we would consider to be a field club kind of area that we're now seeing in a lot of different stadiums around the league."

Rooney also said it was important to him that the new scoreboard be installed and operational before work began on the South Plaza.

"In this day and age, people expect to come to a stadium and have the opportunity to watch replays and other information that's provided by the board, and so we felt the scoreboard now being constructed in the north end was important to this project," said Rooney. "The new scoreboard is in the northwest corner of the north end of Heinz Field, but it really will service not only these new seats but also some of the people in the south end who couldn't see the existing board unless they turned their head about 180-degrees. This will help a lot of people in the stadium to see the replays in a more convenient way. We're happy we got that project done this year."

And now it's on to the South Plaza project. With an existing capacity listed at 65,500, Heinz Field's capacity could climb as high as 68,500 when this construction is completed.

"The goal at this point is to complete the design this summer, and be under construction immediately after the 2014 season, which we hope is in February," said Rooney. "It's a tight time frame, and we are looking at whether we need to phase any part of it – we'll be evaluating that as we go through final design. We hope and expect that all the pieces will fall into place so that the majority, if not all, of the project can be completed by the 2015 season."

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