Pens officials walk out on arena session
Pennsylvania officials claim the hockey team isn't being asked for too much.
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Gov. Ed Rendell says the arena deal that state, city and county officials are putting together for the Pittsburgh Penguins is the best offered to any National Hockey League Team in recent years.
"It's also by far the best of any offer made to any Pennsylvania professional sports team for a new stadium," Rendell told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as he left a hotel Friday.
Rendell stayed in the city overnight after meeting late Thursday with Penguins officials and local politicians to negotiate a new arena deal.
The Penguins representatives, including investor Ron Burkle and team president Ken Sawyer, left less than two hours after the negotiations began Thursday night.
No deal was struck, but Rendell aide Chuck Ardo said he expected the deal to be completed in the next few weeks. Rendell amplified those remarks Friday.
Rendell said the Pittsburgh Pirates contributed about 18 percent of the construction costs of PNC Park, which opened in 2001 along with Heinz Field -- the Pittsburgh Steelers new home.
The Philadelphia Eagles, Flyers and Phillies are also playing in relatively new buildings and Rendell told the newspaper -- without giving dollar figures -- that the Penguins would contribute significantly less for a new arena than the other teams did.
"We made progress on some things and went back on others and that's very common in negotiations," Rendell said. He wouldn't detail what issues regressed but described them as "some of the requests for relief from the Penguins."
"I'm still hopeful, but there's a lot of posturing that goes on," Rendell said of the arena negotiations. "That's true in these types of negotiations, that's true in business negotiations, it's true in labor negotiations."
After the Penguins officials left, Rendell, Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato and Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl met for another hour.
The Penguins' Mellon Arena lease expires at the end of the season, and the team has all but threatened to move to Kansas City unless an agreement to build a new arena can be reached within the next few weeks.
Ardo said the Penguins' early exit wasn't a sign the talks didn't go well.
"None of the principals is going to have any comment tonight," Ardo said Thursday night. "All I can say is negotiations are going to continue, and we hope to be able to work out a deal at some point in the near future."
Kansas City factor
Thursday's arena meeting was the first since Jan. 4. Then, owner Mario Lemieux -- only hours removed from touring Kansas City's new arena -- appeared hopeful the arena would be built and the team he played for and later bought would stay in Pittsburgh.
The Penguins play in the league's oldest building in 45-year-old Mellon Arena, yet they are filling an average of 94 percent of all seats for every game and will sell out most of their 41 home games. With young stars such as Sidney Crosby, they have emerged as one of the league's big drawing cards again following four consecutive last-place seasons.
Rendell's initial Plan B offer, in March, called for the Penguins to pay 8.5 million upfront for a new arena, plus 4 million a year for 30 years and an additional 1 million or so as their share of the naming rights revenue.
However, the state has sweetened that deal in the current negotiations, with the 8.5 million likely to be paid by the local Sports and Exhibition Authority in exchange for Penguins-owned land that is needed for the arena.
The Penguins can't play in a new Pittsburgh arena until 2009 at the earliest, but a proposed Mellon Arena lease extension calls for no rent and the team to earn most of the non-hockey revenue. Mellon Arena was used for approximately 85 non-hockey revenue events last year.
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