The decision not to hold training camp in Latrobe, PA this year – the first time since 1965 – was certainly out of business owners control. It was basically out of the Steelers’ control, following an NFL mandate to practice at their home facility.
Still, it doesn’t make the pain of this summer go away. And those who run restaurants and businesses know it. The Post-Gazette interviewed a number of them as they are bracing for impact at the loss in revenue.
“’It’s going to be a big change for us,’” Dino Decario, owner of Dino’s restaurant, told Ray Fittipaldo., “who said he sees a 30-40% increase in business when the Steelers are in town. ‘I’ve been in business for 31 years, and the Steelers have been here that whole time.'”
St. Vincent college sits on the edge of Route 30, a busy stretch of highway full of restaurants, hotels, and malls. The fans who flocked to Latrobe in July and August, providing a month-long boom to the local economy. Now that’s gone. And on top of that, businesses are already reeling from the COVID shutdown. One estimate says 40% of small businesses across America will permanently shut down.
“It’s something the community really looks forward to every year,” said Amy Templeton, owner of Denunzio’s. “It brings in a very big crowd and it certainly helps the restaurant. [Fans] come before or after they go to camp.”
Pittsburgh has been practicing at Latrobe since 1966. Thousands of fans come from around the country – around the world – to watch them work. The Steelers are now one of less than a dozen teams who still practice offsite. Instead, they’ll be at Heinz Field, where they’ve held one camp practice a year the past few seasons but will still present challenges. A lack of space is a chief concern. At Latrobe, the team had three fields to work with. At Heinz, they’ll have just one for a 90 man roster.
Art Rooney II has vowed to return to training camp for 2021. Odds are good they’ll stay true to their word. But it’s fair to wonder how many businesses remain to open their doors for them next summer.