Editorial: Summer country concert poses concerns for future

Another year, another massive country concert — 50,000 people flocked to Heinz Field this past weekend to see country music superstar Luke Bryan perform fan favorites such as “Drink a Beer” and “Drunk on You.” 

Fans took the country star’s lyrics a little too literally — plenty of beer was drunk and plenty of people were inebriated. Fans began tailgating as early as 11 a.m. for the 6 p.m. concert, resulting in a day filled with booze and drunken negligence, leaving more than 300 public safety incidents and a sea of garbage in its wake. 

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, city officials estimate the resulting cost for the city to be in the tens of thousands of dollars. 

“Enough is enough,” Mayor Bill Peduto said in response to the mess at Heinz Field. “There is no reason that large events like the one Saturday on the North Shore should force city taxpayers to bear the burden for outsized amounts of garbage removal and public safety response.”

Peduto is right. Crowds of drunken concertgoers should not be allowed to run amok and tarnish our city’s reputation. But it’s not like this is something new to the City of Pittsburgh or Heinz Field. 

Both have had experiences before with country concerts and the inevitable horde of tailgaters they bring. In fact, the consequences of this year’s country act pale in comparison to last year’s Kenny Chesney concert at Heinz Field, where 73 citations were handed out — as compared to this year’s 37 citations — and roughly 45,000 to 60,000 pounds of trash were left in and around Heinz Field. 

It could have been worse but with 18 arrests, 254 calls to 911 and 34 people transported to hospitals, the aftermath of the Luke Bryan concert was certainly not a point of pride. 

“Compared to last year’s concert, it was much improved,” Ralph Reetz, general manager at Alco Parking Corporation — which handles all the parking lots around the stadium — said. “But there is still much room for further improvement.” 

How can Heinz Field and the city lessen the wrath country concerts bring every year?

For one, parking lots for tailgaters can open much later. This will give concertgoers less time to become intoxicated and less time to create trash. 

“People who came earlier [for tailgating] really trashed the place up, as opposed to those who came later,” Reetz said.  

Some simple deductive reasoning can tell us why that is: More time for tailgating equates to more time to get belligerently drunk. 

Tailgating also occurs for other events at the stadium, such as Steelers games. Reetz acknowledged that Steelers fans consistently return to these tailgating spots and, therefore, care more about their upkeep, as opposed to concertgoers who only tailgate at the venue once a year. 

Other changes should include stricter consequences to discourage fans from acting carelessly. Actions such as public drunkenness, urination or fighting should come with not only a loss of tickets but also a ban from Heinz Field itself. This will ensure that there are long-term repercussions for these irresponsible actions. 

As Peduto said, “We’ve worked too hard to build the quality of life in Pittsburgh to let others get away with destroying it.”