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Steelers Fans suing Steelers over Heinz Field seats

Location, price anger 4 season ticket holders

Wednesday, August 15, 2001

By Tom Barnes, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

First came complaints about anticipated loud noise from Heinz Field, followed by criticism of the size of the stadium signs and a challenge to the stadium's liquor license.

Steve Rozensky, a Forest Hills businessman, holds his latest collection of Steelers season tickets -- entitling him to seats that he is not very happy with. (John Beale, Post-Gazette)

Now comes the unkindest cut of all: a lawsuit filed against the Steelers by four longtime season ticket holders over the location of seats and price of the seat licenses they bought at the new 65,000-seat stadium.

"My clients aren't getting what they paid for," Dravosburg lawyer W.J. Helzlsouer said yesterday. "We think there's a wrong that needs to be redressed."

He filed the legal action in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court Monday on behalf of a North Huntingdon couple, Paul and Patty Serwonski, along with Ronald A. Yocca of McKeesport and Ron Carmassi of McCandless.

Helzlsouer said he will seek to have a judge certify the complaint as a class-action suit.

Steelers spokesman Ron Wahl issued a brief statement last evening: "It is unfortunate that these season ticket holders chose to pursue this action in court. The Steelers believe that the seating assignments were done fairly and consistent with all legal requirements."

The disgruntled plaintiffs don't see it that way.

Yocca wanted seats in the lower section of Heinz Field around the 20-yard line, but he's getting seats on the 7-yard line. He thinks he was overcharged for the nearly $2,000 he paid for "personal seat licenses," which he had to buy before he could pay $3,900 for two season tickets, according to his lawyer.

"The worst he should have gotten was the 20 [yard line]," said Helzlsouer. "People didn't get what they feel they contracted for."

"We paid for a product -- seats -- that were totally misrepresented and poorly delivered. The tickets I bought weren't the tickets I got," said Carmassi.

He's sitting in a lower corner of the north end zone, instead of higher up in the end zone, as he wished. He had sat for 30 years in the end zone on the 500-level of Three Rivers Stadium, and liked that spot.

Helzlsouer said that in addition to the four named plaintiffs, he has received "30 to 40" e-mails from upset season ticket holders who are interested in joining the lawsuit.

"The exact number of class members [who might join the suit] is unknown," according to the lawsuit, "but is believed to be in excess of 10,000."

"There are tons of people out there" who are unhappy about their seats, said Carmassi, who's had season tickets since Three Rivers Stadium opened in 1970.

Paul Serwonski said he's upset because he and his wife are sitting farther back in the upper deck than they'd been promised. He said he paid $1,600 for two seat licenses, but ended up with seats that are in a less choice section, where each license costs $400. He paid $520 each for two tickets to 10 games but said he's been moved back to a section where each seat costs $460 for the 10 games.

Serwonski said he has "a great deal of respect for the Rooneys," who own the team. He said he wanted to give the team a chance to straighten things out before talking to a lawyer or the news media.

He said someone at the Steelers ticket office said his section in the upper deck had to be reconfigured to make more room for handicapped people, and so the Serwonskis' seats were moved several rows farther away from the field.

"I commend the Steelers for making the stadium handicapped accessible, but why do I have to pay for that?" Serwonski said. He added that he thinks he "paid too much for the seat licenses and the tickets."

He said he and his wife went to the stadium open house Saturday, "and we couldn't even see the scoreboard" at the south end of the field from the seats.

"We're in section 504, the last section in the open end of the stadium," he said. "I have to disagree with the Steelers when they say there isn't a bad seat in the house."

Cleveland Browns media relations director Todd Stewart said there was no such fan discontent or lawsuit filed over seating when the Cleveland stadium opened two years ago. That occurred after Cleveland was without a National Football League team for three years.

One unhappy Steelers season ticket holder who is thinking about joining the lawsuit is Steve Rozensky, a Forest Hills businessman who contacted the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about his displeasure. He wanted to sit on the second level, as he had at Three Rivers, paying $45 a game for 10 games.

But the second level of seating at Heinz Field consists solely of expensive club seats, that have a hefty seat license fee in addition to the ticket prices.

He decided not to buy club seats and had to put his name "into a mix," and ended up sitting in a corner of the north end zone.

"I still had to buy a seat license, but lost my priority seating and now I have a seat that's not as desirable," he said. "They lessened the value of my seat license by giving me a seat that's worse" than he had at Three Rivers.

Rozensky said he knows of others from the former 200-level at Three Rivers who are angry.

"There's a groundswell of people who are unhappy with their seats," he said.

He said he plans to contact Helzlsouer.

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