big boom

Steelers playoff game a $22M boost for region

The Steelers-Dolphins playoff game Sunday means more cash for Alyssa Lybarger's cheerleading squad.

Parents, relatives and friends of the 86-member Turners All-Stars of Indiana volunteer to work Heinz Field concessions during games. Money they earn — this year it totaled more than $100,000 — pays for the team to compete in cheerleading competitions across the country.

"It covers the whole cost of the program," said Alyssa's mom, Michelle Lybarger, 45, of Rural Valley. "It makes it affordable for us to allow our children to participate."

Pittsburgh government officials told Bob Bauder of the Tribune-Review that the game will pump about $22 million into the regional economy. Bars, restaurants and hotels say the extra game helps carry their businesses through winter doldrums.

"It's huge for us," said Randy Lamp, manager of McFadden's Saloon in the North Shore. "Typically, January and February is really slow for us.

"This is a way for us to get a really good start on the year."

It also spills over to employees.

"We bank on these events," said Madelyn Snopko, 24, of Allegheny Center, a bartender at McFadden's.

Pittsburgh expects the game will generate $250,000 in extra revenue for city services, Finance Director Paul Leger said. It includes income from amusement tax, a facility usage fee paid by professional athletes (and entertainers) who travel from out of town to play here and parking tax.

Craig Davis, president and CEO of VisitPittsburgh, the region's tourist promotion agency, estimated the game will generate $22 million total in economic benefit, not counting publicity from a national TV audience.

"When you are on national television in a city as pretty as Pittsburgh, I think it really impacts us in a really positive way," he said. "We'll have the eyes of the nation on Pittsburgh."

The cash injection stretches to about 50 nonprofits — including churches, youth sports leagues, high school marching bands, cheerleading squads and civic groups — through food service company Aramark's NPO program, Aramark spokesman David Freireich said.

Aramark permits volunteers who complete food safety training and pass a background check to work concessions in return for a flat rate, he said. You have to be at least 18 to volunteer, and the group must be a state-certified charitable organization.

"The program serves as an alternative to traditional fundraising like car washes and bake sales," Freireich said.

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