No local tax dollars in arena deal, officials say
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Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl today said the deal for a new hockey arena includes no city tax dollars and no payment to the Penguins' former partners, casino company Isle of Capri Inc.
"We do have a deal. We're very excited about the deal, and we worked very hard to ultimately reach the deal," he said today. "It's just so exciting. It's a hockey night in Pittsburgh for the next 30 years."
He withheld details of the deal until a 5 p.m. press conference at the Sen. John Heinz Regional History Center, other than to say that there will be no local taxpayer money involved in the arena's construction. A term sheet will be released at the press conference, he said.
"I can tell you that there's no city dollars in the deal," he said.
Asked whether the public will have to foot the bill for a payment the hockey team owes Isle of Capri, for expenses the casino company incurred while trying to win a license to operate a slots venue that would have financed the arena, he said: "That's not part of this deal, no."
There's no Allegheny County money in the deal, either, said Kevin Evanto, spokesman for County Executive Dan Onorato.
"The county executive has been consistent from the beginning that no Regional Asset District or county dollars would be used to build the arena," Mr. Evanto said. "The deal that's been struck does not use either of those sources."
PNC Park and Heinz Field, he noted, were backed in part by the Regional Asset District 1 percent sales tax add-on.
"We were able to put together a competitive offer that keeps the Penguins here without Regional Asset District money because of gaming," he said.
In all, $15 million a year in funding derived from a coming slots casino will back the new arena.
Mr. Ravenstahl said details about how the deal compares to other arena financing packages will be released at the press conference.
"It's a good deal, it's a fair deal, it's one we had to work hard to negotiate in competition with other cities, which I guess raised the stakes, so to speak," he said. "We stayed committed to ensuring that no local tax dollars went into this deal. If you look at this deal in comparison to Heinz Field and PNC Park, they are significantly different."
He described the process by which a deal was reached, which included some periods of uncertainty.
"We, from the beginning of these discussions, the Jan. 4 meeting specifically, raised I guess the contribution, so to speak, and we worked from there after the Jan. 4 meeting. But it's safe to say that we were very competitive since the very beginning," he said.
"There were definitely times where, while we continued to negotiate in good faith, and continued to feel as we were competitive, there were times when we began to doubt whether or not a deal would be reached here.
"Certainly, the original meeting of Jan. 4, and here we are today on, I think it's March 13, over two months later. If you had asked me then whether or not it would take this long, I would have told you no. So there are always times when we had doubt. And it was never certain until we actually had that agreement that the Penguins would stay here."
A meeting Thursday evening in the Philadelphia area, spurred in part by a letter from the team threatening to move, was a key moment.
"We had very productive discussions last Thursday evening, at which time we were very close, but needed to get everything formally down on paper, and agreed to, and that's what took place between that period in time and today," he said. "It was helpful to have [NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman] there as a mediator, so to speak, between the NHL and us as the government officials. He was very helpful last Thursday.
"We felt very, very optimistic after the meeting on Thursday, and working over the weekend to get the specifics down on paper, it became apparent that we would be able to reach this deal. So probably some time over the weekend we started to feel really, really confident."
More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
First Published March 13, 2007 12:00 am