In light of Marty Griffin's insulting performance on KDKA this morning, I've forwarded the following letter to the station (I apologize in advance for the wordiness of the letter...it's just that this is a complicated issue to me, and the more people understand about this, the better. No one's got a gun to your head forcing you to read it.)
I was entirely appalled by the lack of professionalism that both you and Mr. Onorato exhibited on your show this morning in the face of what sounded to me like very legitimate questions regarding the arena issue.
I am a 30-year old transplant from the northwestern area of the state who has recently decided to make his home and begin a family in the southwestern Pennsylvania area. As such, I have a significant interest in the decisions made regarding the economic viability of the area, as these decisions will affect not only the rest of my own life, but those of my children as well.
In my time as a resident of this area, I've spent a lot of time and money frequenting the restaurant and entertainment establishments in the downtown areas, Strip district, South Side and Station Square. I also consider myself to be a strong fan of the three local professional sports teams, as well as a supporter of University of Pittsburgh athletics. I attend close to 20 Pirate games a season, but the team which has my strongest allegiance is the Penguins. In light of the issues currently facing the city and the future of the hockey team, I have a very significant interest in the process that will award the slots license.
Whatever your personal feelings about the hockey team may be and whether you or Mr. Onorato ever wishes to admit it, the new arena is in fact a hot-button issue for many, many people in the southwestern Pennsylvania area. Judging by the demographics that I observe in the crowds at Mellon Arena during Pens' games, Mr. Griffin, most of these people are members of my generation. These are younger residents of the area who are just beginning to accumulate the disposable income that can be spent on entertainment in the area. These are the new generations of Pittsburgh - residents who will factor very prominently into the area's revenue streams.
That being the case, I found your responses to the discussion on the arena today absolutely insulting to the intelligence of the residents of this area who consider this to be an important issue. Had these responses come in the face of ridiculous or nonsensical questions, it would be one thing. But to ridicule the interests of these people by mockingly asking Mr. Onorato to start a "Let's Go Pens" cheer? That's bush league at best, sir. Perhaps you gravely underestimate the intelligence of the people who are concerned about this issue. Or perhaps you believe that because this just involves a hockey team that is playing poorly right now, or one that you clearly do not give a damn about, it's a non-issue and therefore unworthy of your time.
That's funny. The Pens play to almost 94% capacity according to attendance figures from ESPN.com. That means I can go down to Mellon Arena 41 nights a year and find about 16,100 people who DO consider it to be an issue. Over an entire season, that's 660,000 people that give a damn. That's 660,000 people who show up to support the team no matter how poorly they are playing. Based on US Census estimates for 2004, that's about half the population of Allegheny County.
I don't believe that anyone out there will argue with you that there are other important issues facing our area than a new arena and the subsequent future of our hockey team. These problems, though, will still exist with or without a new arena, and they do not diminish the impact that a new arena could have on the city. And this goes beyond the new arena. A lot of the people interested in the slots license process see the Isle of Capri plan as a catalyst for a revitalization of the downtown and uptown/Hill District areas. And I don't believe anyone will argue that this revitalization is just as important, if not more important than a new arena. And this also says nothing of the potential $50-100 million dollar hole that the departure of the Pens will leave in the revenue streams of the city. So this goes far beyond a hockey team, sir.
I understand that it's just a hockey team, Mr. Griffin and that "we have other things to talk about." But I found your dismissals of these legitimate questions to be nothing short of hypocritical in light of the fact that the very network you represent played a significant part in the oversaturation of Steelers coverage these last few weeks. Your dismissals were equally hypocritical in light of your network's incessant chest-thumping over said saturated coverage of the local professional football team.
Just because you don't see the arena as a legitimate issue does not mean that it's not, Mr. Griffin. If neither you nor Mr. Onorato chooses to address these interests with the degrees of fairness and professionalism that we expect of our media outlets and public figures, perhaps you each should seek new lines of employment. You know what they say about not being able to stand the heat.
Thank you for your time,
C. J. Jiuliante