Penguins OK deal to stay in Pittsburgh
PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Penguins reached a financing deal for a new arena that will keep the NHL team in the city where it has played since 1967.
Gov. Ed Rendell announced the agreement Tuesday at the Pennsylvania Gaming Congress. He said money from the state’s new slot machine parlors would help fund the arena.
Rendell said he would fly to Pittsburgh later in the day to meet with Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, the team owners and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
“We will announce that all three governmental entities have reached an agreement for a deal that will keep the Penguins in Pittsburgh” for 30 years, he said.
The Penguins had threatened to leave Pittsburgh if they couldn’t secure a new rink. Their lease at 46-year-old Mellon Arena, the oldest facility in the league, expires June 30 and the team is free to leave after that.
Team officials visited Kansas City, Mo., and Las Vegas to discuss a possible move. The Penguins were offered free rent and half of all revenues if they agreed to play in Kansas City’s soon-to-be-completed $262 million Sprint Center.
The Penguins won Stanley Cup titles in 1991 and 1992. Their home attendance and local TV ratings are among the strongest of the NHL’s 24 U.S. franchises.
Kevin Evanto, a spokesman for Onorato, declined to discuss the deal. Spokesmen for the mayor and the Penguins did not immediately return calls.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported the arena would be completed by the start of the 2009-10 season. The Penguins would pay $3.8 million a year for construction and $400,000 annually for unspecified capital improvements, the newspaper reported, citing unidentified sources.
The Penguins have sought a new arena for years. Last year, the team announced a deal with Isle of Capri Casinos Inc. that called for the company to build a $290 million arena at no cost to the team or taxpayers if the gambling firm got a state license to operate a slots casino in the city.
But the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board in December awarded the license to Detroit casino magnate Don Barden, and the Penguins were forced to negotiate with government officials for a new arena.
Associated Press writer Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pa., contributed to this report.