The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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July 12, 2013

Steelers take offense over trash remarks

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers are engaged in some trash talk with the man who manages the parking lots near the team’s stadium.

The Steelers are upset that Alco Parking President Merrill Stabile complained about 30 tons of trash left behind after a Kenny Chesney concert last month, saying that might discourage future concerts at Heinz Field.

The team aired its complaints in a letter from Jimmie Sacco, who heads the team’s stadium management company, to the city’s Stadium Authority, which owns the parking lots near Heinz Field and the Pittsburgh Pirates’ PNC Park nearby.

Sacco’s letter contends Alco Parking President Merrill Stabile “chose to publicly slander the fans at Heinz Field, which caused serious concerns for Mr. Chesney’s management” and argued Stabile’s comments could hamper efforts to promote future concerts at Heinz Field.

The letter wants the Stadium Authority to dress down Stabile, whose company manages the parking lots and organizes their cleanup, for his “inexplicable actions.”

The aftermath of Chesney’s June 22 show was widely covered by the Pittsburgh media, which focused on rampant drinking and unusually large amounts of trash left behind by tailgaters.

Stabile contends he didn’t speak out against the Chesney event or its fans but merely responded to media inquiries by acknowledging the trash problem.

Chesney’s fans generated five times the trash that Steelers fans leave behind, even though only 49,000 attended the show, while the Steelers – who sell out every game – draw about 66,000 fans, including a large tailgating contingent, Stabile said.

Sacco’s letter contends Stabile ignored several suggestions the team made earlier this year to deal with such problems, including pre-selling parking spaces only to concert ticket holders and giving away trash bags to each parked vehicle.

Stabile contends his company did hand out the trash bags, and added extra portable toilets that, nonetheless, didn’t prevent some fans from leaving behind buckets full of human waste.

The company plans to pre-sell parking spaces starting next year.

As to his remarks to local media, Stabile issued an email statement saying, “My philosophy in solving a problem is to first acknowledge that there IS one. Therefore, I saw no benefit in stonewalling the media or denying that there was a problem. I saw more benefit in being proactive and acknowledging that the volume of garbage was extremely high and that WE (Alco Parking) need to do better for future events of this nature.”

Stabile contends Sacco’s letter was a “feeble attempt” by the Steelers to make him a scapegoat should Chesney decide not to play Heinz Field again.

“If the Steeler organization is waiting for an apology from me, I can only characterize my sentiments with a title to an old country-western song: ‘If the phone don’t ring, it’s me,’ ” Stabile wrote.

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