Joe Simon moves to Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, which is entering its 19th NFL season. (Getty Images)
Former Clemson associate AD oversaw multiple projects at school
Jimmie Sacco has a new No. 2. The Pittsburgh Steelers have hired Joe Simon as director of facility operations at Heinz Field.
Simon replaces Brian Opacic, who retired after 19 years, said Sacco, the NFL team’s vice president of stadium operations and management.
Simon, 43, comes from Clemson University, where he was associate athletic director for facilities management over the past five years. During that time, Simon oversaw rapid growth in facility development, including construction of a $55 million football practice facility and the $64 million renovation of Littlejohn Coliseum, Clemson’s basketball arena.
During Simon’s tenure, the Atlantic Coast Conference school also completed multiple upgrades of less than $1 million tied to nonrevenue sports such as a new baseball clubhouse and renovations to the golf facility. In addition, Clemson opens a new $13 million softball venue this fall.
“I was fortunate to work with an outstanding athletic director in Dan Radakovich, who really had a vision that I was able to help him out with,” Simon said. “We fulfilled all the projects that were on the board when I started.”
Those projects, plus Simon’s experience in facility operations at the University of Central Florida and the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, were a key factor in the Steelers’ hiring the Boone, N.C., native, Sacco said.
“With his three previous employers, he had grown each one of those positions and taken on more responsibilities,” Sacco said. “Joe fits what we’re looking for, someone who’s able to oversee operations of the facility, plus be involved in capital projects, repairs and expansion.”
Executive search firm Prodigy Sports contacted Simon about the Steelers’ position.
“It was the right team that piqued my interest,” he said. “I never really had great thoughts of working with an NFL franchise. I was very happy at Clemson and could have stayed there for a long time. For the organization and [the Rooney] ownership group, it was just something I had to do to take things to the next level.”
Simon started his new job April 25, and his first Heinz Field event is the sold-out Garth Brooks show May 18. The massive production features Brooks performing at midfield and is expected to draw 75,000, which would be the highest-attended concert in Pittsburgh, Sacco said.
The concert side of the business is something new for Simon. At Clemson, his special event experience was mostly restructuring rental agreements for premium spaces for meetings and dinners.
“He’s jumping right into it,” Sacco said.
Simon said he looks forward to tapping into Sacco’s 50 years of experience and other NFL stadium managers, “knowing there’s a whole new group of folks I can lean on and get ideas from and talk to,” he said.
Heinz Field enters its 19th NFL season this year, and offseason upgrades include new field lighting, concrete restoration and replacement of escalators. Simon will be involved in those projects, Sacco said.