Report: Steelers strike deal to once again rename their home stadium

Today marks an incredible day for fans of college and professional football alike who happen to live in the Steel City. After months of petitions and campaigns to restore the naming rights of the Pittsburgh Steelers and University of Pittsburgh Panthers stadium, it appears that everyone will be treated to the best of both worlds.

Opened in 2001 as Heinz Field, home of the Steelers had retained the same name up until this time last season when the contract for the building’s naming rights was set to expire.

A lot had changed since 2001, as The H.J. Heinz Company had since been sold and then merged with Kraft Foods. The resulting merger made a renewal unlikely, but it was the increased licensing fees for the stadium naming rights which ultimately saw the Steelers sign with Acrisure.

The previous naming rights deal with Heinz spanned 20 years for a total of $57 million, which by today’s dollars couldn’t match the estimated $10-20 million per year that Acrisure will pay the Steelers over last year’s 15-year agreement. That arrangement will cost Acrisure between $150-to-$300 million of its duration.

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The influx of cash was vital to continuing upgrades and expansion to the North Shore facility, but the reaction of the general public was overwhelmingly negative to the inevitable new business deal. As such, petitions to rename the stadium to “Heinz Field” from its newly christened “Acrisure Stadium” didn’t fall on deaf ears, as Heinz branding started to popup in various locations within football stadium throughout the 2022 season.

While the ketchup bottles were removed from the scoreboard, the first hint that Heinz wasn’t going away came during a home preseason game in August when the familiar “Heinz Red Zone” animation played on the screens for all to see, notifying fans that the Steelers were in scoring distance. Specific concession stands popped up with red paint ketchup logos featuring “red bun” hot dogs while one of the stadium’s entrance gates, Gate C, is now called the “Heinz Gate”.

Yet, that wasn’t enough to satisfy the still angry mob, as NFL fans voted the new name next-to-last in a ranking of team stadium names and recognition. GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium earned the “honors” as the worst stadium name, which got Steelers team President Arthur J. Rooney II thinking in recent weeks: why can’t Pittsburgh’s stadium also have two names?

During last week’s owners’ meetings, Rooney attributed the above study, as well as passionate fans who wouldn’t quit on Heinz Field, for his change of heart. Rooney noted a recent chat with former Steeler and now XFL head coach Hines Ward, who said “If it can’t be Heinz Field, maybe we can name it Hines Field instead.”

While the former Super Bowl MVP doesn’t have the same buying power as Acrisure, a joint naming agreement is what came to mind. Rooney recalled local high school and collegiate football venues that often share different names for their stadium and field, and that the NFL has no such restrictions on “dual naming” of locations, such as the former Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City or Empower Field at Mile High in Denver.

“Why can’t the field be ‘Heinz’ and the stadium ‘Acrisure’?” stated Rooney. Thus the newly rechristened Heinz Field at Acrisure Stadium.

While the two-name scheme isn’t the first in the league, it is the first to feature two different corporate sponsors, which could open the door for other owners to follow suit. Upon Rooney’s announcement, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is reportedly looking to pair AT&T Stadium’s naming rights with that of the annual tradition of our April Fools’ Day prank. (Sorry everyone, but this naming isn’t happening. However, the concession stands and gate names were in fact changed and will remain going forward! Happy April Fool’s Day!)

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