Pittsburgh Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux helped break ground on the hockey team’s new arena August 14 and casually mentioned that the team’s major threat, to leave the city if they didn’t get what they wanted, was all smoke.
“It wasn’t a possibility,” Lemieux said, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We had to do a few things to put pressure on the city and the state, but our goal was to remain here in Pittsburgh all the way. Those trips to Kansas City and Vegas and the other cities was just to go, and have a nice dinner and come back.”
Although the threat was at the center of intense negotiations between the city, state and the Penguins throughout 2006-07, Lemieux’s comment appeared to be met with shrugs.
Paul McGannon, president of a Kansas City fan club that courted the Penguins, told the Tribune-Review he didn’t fault Lemieux for the tactic. Chuck Ardo, spokesman for Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, said, “If it was a negotiating tactic, it was a good one.”
But Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Tonya Payne said she was shocked.
“Every indication pointed to that they were serious about moving,” she told the paper. “I know that scared the hell out of the governor, the mayor and [Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato]. It got them in gear.”
The $290 million arena will replace the oldest venue in the National Hockey League, Mellon Arena. It is expected to open in 2010 with an 18,000 capacity.
Meanwhile, Mellon Arena is still worth some money. Although the “Igloo” is expected to be demolished and converted into a parking lot for the new arena, its stainless-steel roof could be worth $400,000 after it is cut into 5- by 2-foot sections and recycled, the Tribune-Review reported.
The interior is also worth some lucre. When Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium was imploded in 2001, the city-county Sports & Exhibition Authority auctioned off much of the interior, including the JumboTron, as part of a plot that went for $519,000, according to the paper.