Penguins Arena Options

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell unveiled his plan to build a new arena for the Pittsburgh Penguins March 30th as an alternative to Isle of Capri Casinos’ $290 million proposal.

Rendell’s plan to replace the 18,500-capacity Mellon Arena calls for financing by a new state slot machine fund, an annual contribution by whomever wins the bid for a Pittsburgh casino license, funds from the Penguins and a naming rights deal. Mellon has been home to the Penguins since 1967.

“We need a credible plan to replace the Igloo that does not require taxpayers to foot the bill, and will work regardless of what happens with gaming licenses. My plan does that,” Rendell said. “If we enact this proposal, we can begin planning for the new arena now, not nine months or a year from now when the gaming licenses are awarded.”

Penguins majority owner Mario Lemieux has previously said there was a “slim chance” the team would stay past the 2006-07 season – when the team’s lease expires – without a new home. But it’s no secret he’s been seeking a new facility since he bought the team in 1999.

The 44-year-old Mellon Arena is the oldest and second-smallest venue currently in use in the NHL.

Rendell said his proposal is a good backup plan in case Biloxi-based Isle of Capri doesn’t land the state gaming license, but rival gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann disagrees.

The former Pittsburgh Steeler is backing Isle of Capri’s plan, telling the Beaver County Times it’s a “win, win, win” for all parties involved. Swann told the paper Rendell’s plan will cost taxpayers, and said there wouldn’t be a new arena until 2037.

Pittsburgh Penguins President/CEO Ken Sawyer told the Pittsburgh Business Times the team appreciates Rendell’s effort, but still believes Isle of Capri has the best plan for the region.

Other bidders for the project include a partnership between Harrah’s Entertainment and Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises, and Detroit-based casino operator PITG Gaming, the Business Times said.