Practice rink part of Penguins plan

Lemieux says idea will enhance new place

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MONTREAL -- The Penguins' lease with the Iceoplex at Southpointe expired this week, and they are in the market for a new practice facility.

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But that might not be a long-term concern.

Owner Mario Lemieux said yesterday that the team would like to include a practice rink in its proposal for a venue to replace Mellon Arena.

There is a similar arrangement in Columbus, where the Blue Jackets employ a rink adjacent to Nationwide Arena for practices and other events. Such a facility conceivably could be used for things such as public skating and amateur games when the NHL team is not there.

"If we ever get a new arena, we'd like that," Lemieux said. "That's a pretty good setup they have [in Columbus]."

The Penguins, who contend their survival in Pittsburgh hinges on getting a new building, hope to secure the city's stand-alone slots parlor license and have pledged to use money from that to help finance Mellon Arena's successor. But while the team's bid has garnered considerable political support, there is no guarantee the license will be awarded to Lemieux and his partners.

And despite speculation that whoever gets the license might be compelled to devote some of the proceeds to construction of a new arena, Lemieux said that simply having a new building would not necessarily be enough to keep the franchise in Pittsburgh if the slots license is awarded to another party.

"That's something we'd have to look at," he said. "I'd think that, at this stage, we'd need a little bit more than just a new arena for us to make it work."

Lemieux declined to elaborate on what those requirements would be.

The Penguins' lease at Mellon Arena expires in 2007. After that, the team would have no legal ties to the city, allowing Lemieux and his partners to sell the franchise to a buyer interested in relocating it.

Dave Molinari can be reached at 412-263-1144.


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