Pittsburgh is thinking big these days -- Olympics, Super Bowl, NBA. Let’s take these on one at a time, with an emphasis on the most plausible.
The city yesterday received notification from the U.S. Olympic Committee asking whether it has interest in preparing a bid for the 2024 Summer Games. Presumably, this is someone’s idea of a joke. Pittsburgh could never handle the Olympics, nor, if it foolishly did decide to submit a bid would it have any chance of winning.
According to the Post-Gazette, holding an Olympics would ``involve a budget estimated at $3 billion and include an Olympic Village for 16,500 athletes and a minimum of 45,000 hotel rooms.’’
End of discussion.
It was proposed earlier this month by Tribune-Review columnist Dejan Kovacevic that Super Bowl L be held in Pittsburgh. Great column idea, Dejan, but preposterous practical idea.
The NFL is experimenting next year for the first time with a Super Bowl in a cold-weather site in a stadium without a dome. The game and events surrounding it will be held in the New York City metropolitan region, which has just a teensy bit more clout than Pittsburgh. This is a gift from the NFL to the corporate and financial headquarters of the nation.
The NFL is willing to take on Mother Nature to play nice to New York. It would not be willing to make such a gesture toward Pittsburgh, which, although I have not done the math, likely does not have enough hotel rooms to satisfy a Super Bowl crowd.
The chance of Pittsburgh hosting the Olympics: 1 in 1 million; the chance of Pittsburgh hosting the Super Bowl: 1 in 25,000.
Let’s get on to a slightly more practical idea: An NBA franchise for Pittsburgh.
NBA commissioner David Stern told the Seattle Times earlier this month, ``I don’t think [expansion] is an option.’’ But little more than a week later, when pressed on expansion by the Houston Chronicle, he mentioned eight cities and named Pittsburgh first.
Here are the eight cities Stern named: Pittsburgh, Columbus, Louisville, Virginia Beach, Las Vegas, Vancouver, Mexico City, Kansas City.
Of that list, Pittsburgh is the only city with three existing major professional franchises. Kansas City has two, Columbus and Vancouver one and the rest zero. That’s good and bad.
Pittsburgh has done an amazing job of supportings its three teams. The Steelers and Penguins are sold out for every game and the support of the Pirates, considering their record, is just as impressive. But that’s also a drawback. An NBA team would be fourth fiddle in Pittsburgh, maybe fifth, behind Pitt athletics.
So it’s not just a question of whether Pittsburgh is big enough to support four franchises -- all of the 12 regions that have four franchises are more populous than Pittsburgh -- but whether there would be enough interest.
Those supporting an NBA franchise would suggest that if Pitt can sell out its 12,500-seat arena, the region certainly could support an NBA franchise, which would be better basketball and in a larger venue. However, and no one should take offense with this, but many of the people who buy season tickets for Pitt games are Pitt fans far more than they are basketball fans. Many, if not most, would be highly reluctant to transfer their allegiance.
Let’s also not forget that Pitt is almost annually a nationally ranked team, which has excelled in the best college basketball league in the country. An NBA franchise coming to Pittsburgh -- either an expansion team or an existing bottomfeeder -- would not offer the success or the tradition that Pitt does.
It’s my opinion, and I think this is irrefutable, that an NBA franchise would struggle badly at the gate until it was successful. Pittsburgh is not a basketball town. It never has supported basketball until the recent Pitt success. Teams in alternate pro leagues, even those with success, have failed.
Bottom line: The NBA is not likely to expand. If it did, it’s not likely to come to Pittsburgh because the region probably is not big enough to support four franchises and because it almost certainly would not support a losing team. Which it most certainly would get.
Not to be negative, but: No Olympics, no Super Bowl, no NBA franchise.