Rendell: Appeal to NHL possible if Penguins try to leave

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The deal offered by local officials to the Penguins for a new arena is so good that, if the team tries to leave town, Gov. Ed Rendell would take his case directly to the National Hockey League, Mr. Rendell said today.

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Gov. Ed Rendell comments on the status of discussions with the Penguins for a new arena:
Still a good deal for the Penguins
Investments by other sports teams on new stadiums and arenas
Three reasons to keep the Penguins in Pittsburgh
Baffled by Mario Lemieux's comments
Last resort: Appeal to the NHL Board of Governors

Previous coverage
Politician: 'Best deal is on the table'    

The governor, speaking at another event in Downtown Pittsburgh this morning, was asked his reaction to comments yesterday by team owner Mario Lemieux. Mr. Lemieux said he was "very disappointed" with the deal being offered and reiterated his willingness to "explore other options," including relocation of the team.

But Mr. Rendell revealed more about the offer by the state, city and county, including some sweeteners, and repeated his statement of last week that it is the best deal any sports team in the state has received in recent years to build a new facility.

"We do not want to have to go to the NHL Board of Governors. We want to conclude this deal," Mr. Rendell said. "But we will have no alternative," given the proposal, if the Penguins reject it.

Mr. Rendell said the state is offering some funds for infrastructure and would even be willing to direct some tourism funds for advertising at a new arena.

But one sticking point is that the team wants to be compensated for a $10 million payment it owes Isle of Capri, which had a development deal with the team to build an arena if if won a license to build a casino in the city. Isle of Capri lost, triggering the $10 million payment. Mr. Rendell said public officials are not inclined to cover that debt.

Isle of Capri's failure to get the license led to the current round of talks.

Mr. Rendell said he has also heard that Penguins officials plan to visit Houston to check out facilities there.

Earlier today, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato said they are still optimistic they can negotiate a deal.

"We understand the frustration," said Mr. Ravenstahl. "It's been seven years" since Mr. Lemieux first approached public officials for help with financing a new arena.

"We're negotiating, we're optimistic, we continue to believe we can get a deal done," said Mr. Onorato.

The Penguins are upset over a proposal that would require them to share development rights near Mellon Arena and parking revenues with Pittsburgh casino developer Don Barden.

Mr. Ravenstahl and Mr. Onorato refused to discuss specifics, but the mayor referred to Mr. Rendell's statements last week that "there are always steps forward and steps back" in negotiations.

The two officials would not say when further meetings would occur.

More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


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