Onorato promises 'very competitive' Penguins deal

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Even as the Penguins ownership meets with Kansas City officials today about a potential relocation, Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato said he, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Gov. Ed Rendell are prepared to make a "very competitive deal" to keep the team in Pittsburgh.

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On the eve of the first face-to-face meeting with the Penguins over the details of the Plan B alternative for funding a new arena, Mr. Onorato said he was "cautiously optimistic" that local officials would be able to craft a deal that would prevent any potential move.

"We're in the position to put together a very competitive deal for a new arena and a franchise to be in that arena, and I believe at the end of the day the NHL and the ownership of the Penguins will see that this is a competitive deal," he said this morning.

Mr. Onorato, Mr. Ravenstahl and Mr. Rendell are expected to meet with Penguins owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle and other team officials tomorrow at the State Office Building to discuss Plan B. Mr. Onorato said he expects the meeting to begin "clarifying the details" of Plan B and a proposed long-term lease.

Arena funding under Plan B now includes $7.5 million a year for 30 years from Pittsburgh casino license winner Don Barden; $7 million a year for 30 years from a slots-financed state economic development fund; and $4 million a year from the Penguins, including $1.1 million annually from naming rights, plus $8.5 million upfront.

Local officials have said in the past the offer is negotiable, a point reiterated today by Mr. Onorato.

"There is no reason why we don't come to a meeting of the minds at the end of the day, whenever that day is, because of the gaming money that's on the table," he said.

In a prepared statement issued this morning, Mr. Lemieux and Mr. Burkle said, "We are meeting with officials in Kansas City today as part of our effort to explore all of our options regarding a new arena. We have heard many great things about their new building, which is scheduled to open in time for the start of the 2007-08 NHL season.

"We will meet with Governor Rendell, County Executive Onorato and Mayor Ravenstahl in Pittsburgh on Thursday, and we will continue to explore other options as well. Our hope is to reach a new arena deal as soon as possible that will best ensure the economic health and long-term future of the Penguins franchise."


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