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Heinz Field highlights the skyrocketing cost of NFL stadium naming rights

The Steelers' first-ever game at Heinz Field on Oct. 7, 2001
The Steelers' first-ever game at Heinz Field on Oct. 7, 2001. Photo: Jason Cohn/Getty Images

Heinz is "highly unlikely" to renew its naming rights deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers once their current contract ends in 2021, Sports Business Journal reports.

Why it matters: Kraft Heinz signed a 20-year, $57 million naming rights deal in 2001 (the 57 number being a reference to the "Heinz 57" slogan). That means they pay roughly $2.85 million per year — well below market value.

  • Private lender SoFi is expected to pay roughly $400 million over 20 years to put its name on the new stadium that the Rams and Chargers will share in Inglewood, California.
  • Insurance company MetLife pays a similar annual price for the Giants and Jets' shared stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
  • Teams in similar markets to Pittsburgh are also bringing in far more money than the Steelers per year: Buffalo (New Era, $5 million), Cleveland (First Energy, $6 million), Nashville (Nissan, $6.5 million), Atlanta (Mercedes-Benz, $12 million).

The big picture: The Steelers' current stadium has been called Heinz Field since it opened in 2001, which means one of Pittsburgh's core landmarks could soon go by a different name for the first time in 20 years.

  • Fun fact: The Steelers played their first-ever game at Heinz Field on Oct. 7, 2001, against the Cincinnati Bengals. Pittsburgh won 16-7, with Jerome Bettis and Kordell Stewart leading the way (box score).

The bottom line: Amidst skyrocketing naming rights fees, Kraft Heinz has reportedly decided to throw in the terrible towel.