PITTSBURGH -- Young stars Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal have the Penguins on the move in the NHL standings. A new multimillion dollar arena agreement has the team staying in Pittsburgh for the foreseeable future.
The Penguins and government officials ended months of difficult negotiations, agreeing to a $290 million arena deal that ensures the team will stay in Pittsburgh.
Keys to the agreement included the government waiving up-front money from the team, the Penguins receiving about $10.5 million compensation for delays, and the sides agreeing to share responsibility for cost overruns.
"Well, this is a great day for hockey," co-owner Mario Lemieux said Tuesday. "I'm glad that I'm here today announcing a deal with the city, the county and the state, to stay her for 30 years. That was my goal and I'm glad we finally achieved it.
"We would like to enjoy what's coming with this young team," Lemieux said.
He added that the extra arena revenue will help the team spend more in an effort to retain Crosby, the league's leading scorer, stellar rookies Malkin and Staal, and other core players who have put the Penguins in position for their first playoff berth since 2001.
The Penguins will continue to play at 46-year-old Mellon Arena, the oldest in the National Hockey League, and hope to begin play in the new arena sometime during the 2009-10 season. President Ken Sawyer said it's possible the arena will not be ready for the start of that season.
Gov. Ed Rendell said the negotiations were more complicated than those to finance four new baseball and football stadiums in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia in recent years because other cities were bidding for the team to move.
"With the other four stadium deals (Pirates, Steelers, Phillies, Eagles) none of those teams had an open competitor that was trying to take the team," Rendell said. "Here we had Kansas City making a very good, some might say terrific, offer and we had to respond."
As a result, the Penguins will not pay $8.5 million up front for the arena, as government officials first proposed, Rendell said. Instead, the team will receive $10 million to compensate it for delays, for property it purchased near the arena site, and to help with marketing.
Team officials weighing a move recently visited Kansas City, Mo., and Las Vegas, and were contacted by representatives from Houston. The Penguins were offered free rent and half of all revenues if they agreed to play in Kansas City's soon-to-be-completed $262 million Sprint Center.
Rendell also commended Lemieux, who bought the team out of bankruptcy in 1999 and pledged to try to keep it in the city. At the time, Lemieux was owed millions in a long-term contract and leveraged that equity to buy the team with investors, including billionaire Ron Burkle.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who was credited with mediating the deal, said his "head was spinning" as Rendell itemized the terms of the deal.