Latrobe, Pennsylvania, missed income, relationships solid over many years internet hosting Steelers | information
LATROBE, Pennsylvania – Visitors to Latrobe asked if this was the location the Pittsburgh Steelers held a training camp and Dino DeCario said, “Yes.”
But he can’t say that lately.
DeCario has owned Dino’s Sports Lounge on Route 30 for 32 years.
The restaurant is about 2 miles from St. Vincent College, where the NFL’s legendary Pittsburgh franchise held a pre-season training camp from 1966 to 2019. However, due to the pandemic, the camp has been held in Heinz Field for the past two summers.
The team’s absence means DeCario’s restaurant is missing out on a 30 to 40 percent increase in business it would get from serving Steelers players, coaches, and fans from across the country.
But it’s more than that, said DeCario.
“Not only is it a huge financial loss, it is also a loss of pride,” he said.
DeCario’s feeling is shared by owners of businesses concentrated along the Route 30 corridor and in downtown Latrobe, said Briana Tomack, president of the Greater Latrobe-Laurel Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce.
The Steelers training camp is a major tourism and economic factor for the city of about 7,700 residents, Tomack said.
“The revenue it brings is being missed,” she said.
But she said Latrobe had other attractions. Latrobe claims the first documented banana split in 1904 and is hosting the Great American Banana Split Celebration this month, Tomack said.
The city is also home to Fred Rogers and Arnold Palmer.
But the Steelers brought a stirring atmosphere.
Katie Walker, a waitress at Jioio’s Family Restaurant, said she delivered pizzas to the Steelers players and placed them in a back room of the store so they can eat without fans interrupting them.
“Everyone feels like they’re coming back this year, but they’re not,” she said. “This year is kind of – blah.”
The region’s Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, Go Laurel Highlands, had no way of knowing how many visitors the Steelers attracted to the training camp, nor how much money they were raising into the community.
Hotels in Latrobe and Greensburg have certainly felt the impact, said Ann Nemanic, general manager of Go Laurel Highlands.
At Sharky’s Cafe, where Steelers’ stations broadcast weekly radio programs during the training camp, manager Johnathan Heiple said he hoped to return to tradition.
“It’s an extremely big deal,” he said. “Right now, around noon, there would be no more space here.”
He said he’s met quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and coach Mike Tomlin over the years, as well as many fans preparing for training camp, he said.
“We’re still one of the busiest places in town, but it doesn’t compare to previous seasons,” he said. “Business has declined by 25 to 35%.”
DeNunzio’s Italian restaurant opened in Latrobe in 2004 and is part of the history of the community hosting the Steelers, said Anthony DeNunzio, restaurant manager.
DeNunzio’s at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport hosted the team’s traditional meet-and-greet banquet.
More than 100 trainers and staff would get to know each other at that dinner, DeNunzio said. A banquet would be held the next day for the media following the Steelers, and as the camp progressed, fans would come to dinner after practice.
“Latrobe has a familiar atmosphere that the Steelers have had with their organization since 1933, and not having them here is dulling the mood,” he said.
Cars with license plates from across the country would fill corporate parking lots. Gabe Monzo, executive director of Westmoreland County’s Airports Authority, said some fans were flying in.
“We’ll probably get a few hundred people in and out during the Steeler training camp weeks,” he said.
Blake Fleegle owns the Latrobe 30 Theater & Cafe, where Steelers players went to rest and relax in the afternoons between workouts.
“Among the players, fans and news that come with the Steeler training camp, Latrobe puts it on the map,” he said. “We miss that.”
Inquiries to the Steeler organization regarding a return to Latrobe in 2022 were not answered on Wednesday.
St. Vincent College President Rev. Paul Taylor, OSB, said in a written statement that the college was confident of reopening the Steelers next year.