costs for the projects probably will be higher with
By Timothy McNulty, Post-Gazette Staff Writer
This is the ninth in a series of articles taking a
closer look at Plan B, the financing mechanism proposed
by Pittsburgh and Allegheny County officials to pay for
new baseball and football stadiums and the expansion of
the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.
Today's installment is about the cost of the three
Q: Where do these price tags come from?
A: Developers used the $248 million spent developing
Ericsson Stadium in Charlotte -- which was built by
Turner Construction, the same firm lined up to build the
Steelers stadium -- as a model for determining the $233
million cost of a new Steelers stadium.
Using the same method, the Pirates' price tag of $228
million is the basis for the $260 million estimated for
the new Tiger Stadium in Detroit, set to open in 2000.
The similarly low-key designs of the two parks, -- which
do not include all the conspicuous extras, such as
hot-tubs, hotels and mega-malls included in some other
new stadiums -- were both done by HOK Sport of Kansas
The $267 million convention center expansion is not based
specifically on other projects. But it is similar in
scope to the completed expansions of centers in Columbus,
Ohio ($98 million), Detroit ($175 million), Kansas City
($144 million) and Milwaukee ($171 million). The project
is also similar to the planned $216 million upgrade of
the San Diego Convention Center.
Q: Are the estimates realistic?
A: The price of the convention center is likely to go up.
Officials have already said $290 million is more likely
than the $267 million figure.
The timing of buying and razing nearby properties could
affect the price.
Developers want to have six nearby properties purchased
by next spring. But one of them, the United Engineering
Building, might have to be taken by eminent domain, a
process that could drag on for months.
The PNC Bank operations center next door to that building
can't be demolished until the end of 1999 at the
earliest, after the bank builds and moves to another
building planned at Grant Street and First Avenue. That
leaves two years to get the convention center
construction done by the late 2001 or early 2002 target.
While the process is only beginning, acquisition,
demolition and site improvements could prove to be a
problem for the Pirates.
Residents have to be moved from a six-story senior
citizens home that developers must demolish. Residents
from other nearby homes will also have to move, and the
city's $2 million river rescue center has to be
City and county officials would not answer questions
about acquisition prices or the pace of negotiations for
the North Shore properties. Peter Sukernek, general
manager of Howard Hannah's commercial real estate
division, noted that the senior citizens home is a
renovated warehouse -- which could drive down its price
-- and estimated its cost to be between $1.3 million to
When and if the properties on the proposed Pirates site
are purchased, around $10 million in improvements (from
the $44 million budgeted for acquisition and demolition)
will be needed on utility lines and flood mitigation. At
the same time, archeological studies have to be done
(there is a railroad roundhouse on the site), and if they
turn up anything historically significant, construction
will probably be delayed.
For the football stadium, several buildings that are west
of the Kaufmann's warehouse need to be bought and
destroyed, along with the warehouse itself. Negotiations
have not started.
Q: Construction delays drive up the price, right?
A: Yes. The longer the projects go past their 2001 and
2002 deadlines, the higher the costs will go.
That said, escalating development prices are built into
the budgets of the projects.
Turner Construction Vice President James Mitnick, whose
company is working on the football stadium and convention
center projects, said the price tags and target dates are
feasible if the plans stay on schedule.
Long delays would hurt, though.
''If it doesn't start within four or five years, then
we're in trouble,'' he said.
Q: Have the costs of other stadium projects
A: Let's put it this way: While exact costs are hard to
pin down, stadiums don't cost less than what they're
The prices aren't exactly listed on an invoice, and
sports teams are notoriously tight-lipped about finances.
''The numbers are so amorphous,'' said Paul Anderson,
assistant director of the National Sports Law Institute
at Marquette University in Milwaukee. ''If you could find
an actual accounting statement, I'd be amazed.''
But prices quoted publicly at the beginning and end of
stadium projects do change over the course of development
Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix was supposed to cost around
$300 million when plans were announced. After
construction began, and its retractable roof wouldn't
work correctly and other problems surfaced, the price
ended up at $354 million when it opened this year.
Camden Yards was supposed to cost around $110 million to
build -- that was before acquisition and demolition costs
of another $100 million were factored in.
Residents of San Diego were told in 1995 that renovations
to Qualcomm Stadium would cost $60 million. After work
was finished the next year, the number climbed to $78
Numbers change for unfinished stadiums, too:
Miller Park in Milwaukee was supposed to be built for
$250 million, but it will cost between $330 million and
$397 million when the baseball facility is finished in
2000. Costs of labor, architectural work and concessions
equipment and facilities were all underestimated.
The Baltimore Ravens stadium (which will get another name
before it hosts its first preseason game on Aug. 8) was
supposed to cost $200 million, though the price will be
closer to $220 million.
Likewise, the new football stadium in Tampa was estimated
to cost $178 million, but it will end up costing $200
million when it opens in September.
In 1996, Cincinnati voters approved a half-cent sales tax
for construction of two stadiums, which were to be built
for a combined $540 million to $550 million. Recent
numbers for the Bengals stadium are $400 million and $220
million for the Reds stadium.
Q: Where will the extra $70 million to $80
million come from?
A: Good question.
Team owners here have said they will be responsible for
construction cost overruns (with the proviso that they
must also be in control of design and construction). If
they are responsible for extra costs, doesn't that mean
that the exact amounts of these price tags are important?
Not at the moment. The price tags haven't been a major
topic at the talks between the teams and the city-county
negotiators about the team funding of Plan B.
Charles Cohen and William Newlin, the lawyers in charge
(respectively) of the city-county's Steelers and Pirates
negotiating teams, said the cost estimates are realistic
and therefore haven't been contested.
Assuming agreements are reached with the teams, they
said, the final deals will include language on the teams'
exact financial responsibilities for the stadium costs.