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Cranmer still optimistic on Plan B deal

Rooney's complaint on funding answered

Friday, June 05, 1998

By Mark Belko, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

If the hit delivered by Steelers President Dan Rooney regarding the status of Plan B talks jarred him, Allegheny County Commissioner Bob Cranmer, like a proud running back, wasn't letting on yesterday.

A day after Rooney complained that the city and county were trying to force his franchise to fork over too much for Plan B, Cranmer, the man demanding more from the team, put a positive spin on the status of negotiations with the team owners.

"The negotiations, as I said, went well this week. We expect them to continue to go well. We have defined what the issues are between the (city-county) negotiating team and the Steelers and I would expect a positive session next week," Cranmer said.

In an article in yesterday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Rooney said city and county officials were trying to force the Steelers to assume too much of a financial burden for Plan B, the $803 million proposal for funding new football and baseball stadiums and an expanded Downtown convention center. In it, Rooney said if a financing agreement was not reached by June 30, "then we have to look at what we're going to do."

Cranmer said he spoke to representatives for the Steelers yesterday morning and they said "we should reference the negotiations this week, not what was in the paper this morning" to accurately gauge the team's attitude about the talks.

Cranmer has been pressuring the Steelers to increase the $50 million they have pledged toward the construction of the $233 million stadium.

But Rooney said the Steelers' contribution is $15 million more than the Pirates, who want to build a $228 million ballpark, and maintained the Steelers were being asked to fill in the gaps in funding for Plan B.

While his franchise wanted to help in funding, it was "not going to carry the water for everybody," Rooney said in yesterday's story.

Steelers spokesman Ron Wahl said yesterday that the team stood by Rooney's statements and was also "committed to continuing positive negotiations" with the city and county on Plan B.

But he added, "We're not going to agree to a lease that puts us in a position of not being competitive. We're looking for a lease that would enable us to compete with the rest of the teams in the NFL."

Rooney said the team's current lease puts it at a disadvantage and that the one being proposed for the new stadium would do so as well. The Steelers can give notice at any time to escape their lease at Three Rivers Stadium and move two years later.

Cranmer said he hoped to conclude negotiations with the Steelers before June 30. Both he and Rooney have set that as a deadline. If talks aren't done by then, Rooney said, the team would consider other options and that it may look to nearby counties for a new home.

He said he was not threatening to move the team out of the region or sell it, but he said if the franchise couldn't compete with other teams in the league, it would become mediocre and would not survive.

"Hopefully, June 30 is not going to be an issue," Cranmer said.

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