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fordfixer
09-12-2009, 01:48 AM
Pittsburgh basks in glow of champion Steeler, Penguin teams

By Kevin Gorman, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Friday, September 11, 2009

They came together like the confluence of the Allegheny and the Monongahela to form the Ohio -- the Super Bowl Steelers and the Stanley Cup Penguins winning to reclaim the title of City of Champions.

Their celebrations came to a head Thursday, when the Penguins visited the White House in what Sidney Crosby called "our last hurrah with the Cup," and the Steelers opened the 2009 NFL season against the Tennessee Titans at Heinz Field before a national television audience.

"We really have an unprecedented opportunity in front of us to promote Pittsburgh," Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said in a phone interview from New York City, where he spent the day discussing volunteerism with 16 other mayors.

Ravenstahl said the "electric" atmosphere sparked by the NFL kickoff and the Penguins' visit to Pennsylvania Avenue will last through President Obama's appearance next week at the AFL-CIO convention, Downtown, and the Group of 20 economic summit Sept. 24-25 in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

"Pittsburgh is almost as overexposed as the president," joked Michael Edwards, president and chief executive officer of Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. "It's a big opportunity. For the Downtown businesses, it's certainly a shot in the arm for our self-esteem. This is an opportunity to take a step back and see what the city looks like from a world view.

"The sports success is on the tip of everybody's tongues," Edwards said. "From an economic-development standpoint, if you don't have to introduce your city and go through the process of apologizing for your city, it makes your job easier."

The Pirates are Pittsburgh's only apology of late. Even the team's dubious distinction of professional sports-franchise futility -- clinching their 17th consecutive losing season -- is on a back burner.

The focus is elsewhere.

"The Steelers opening the NFL season, the Penguins at the White House, working constantly on G-20 -- they almost overlap because they're all part of the conversation so, collectively, it's powerful," said Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato. "People are noticing that, as a city, county and region, great things are happening here. This is our chance to stand up and show off under the spotlight that is on the region with all those events."

Penguins President David Morehouse called it a "great day for the city."

"It's a bit of a quirk these things happened on the same day -- but typical of the sports year Pittsburgh has had. In many ways, it symbolizes the city's resurgence," said Morehouse, a former aide in the Clinton administration. "It's even more special that it's against the backdrop of the world looking at Pittsburgh, with the G-20. These three things happening at once are like the perfect storm happening for Pittsburgh."

Pittsburgh takes pride in its quirks -- whether it's putting french fries on a sandwich, butchering the King's English, giving directions by landmarks or accepting that television networks continue to portray this as an old steel town rather than the resurgent, tech-savvy city it has become.

The latter, however, can make it harder to promote the city's renaissance.

"It is a bit frustrating, not because we're not proud of that, but because we've evolved. You never see the next stage of Pittsburgh," Edwards said. "If they would show robotics, that would be a more accurate depiction of what is going on, aside from the 'beauty shot' of pouring steel to go with the Steelers -- but the Steelers are such a powerful brand."

After spending more than a decade in Washington, Morehouse went searching for a post-political career in 2004 and said he found everything he was looking for in his hometown. Outside of the new stadiums and casino on the North Shore, and the development and revitalization of the South Side, the city is going "green" with many buildings to become a high-tech town.

"The world leaders coming to town will see a different city than the one I grew up in," said Morehouse, a Beechview native who was a welder for Local 154 of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers after graduating from high school. "The perception exists that it's a dirty steel town.

"Between the Penguins and Steelers, we've opened eyes worldwide. We're sitting at the apex where Pittsburgh can be a model city for the rest of the world. It's a great city to live in."

Kevin Colbert, a Spring Hill native, enjoyed the initial incarnation of the City of Champions in his early 20s. This time, he experienced it professionally as the Steelers' director of football operations and personally as a longtime Penguins fan and season-ticket holder.

Colbert said the Steelers even changed the time of their Super Bowl ring ceremony June 9 to accommodate the Penguins playing in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. And the Penguins, Morehouse acknowledged, were hoping to return home from Washington yesterday in time to see the Steelers play.

"The city and perception may have changed, but I don't think the core values of people who live here have, nor do I think their interest in sports has," Colbert said. "Sports are a big part of people's life. It's a weird phenomenon, of how important sports and athletes are to this region."