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Arena/Casino plan fails
Joe O'connor, National Post
Published: Thursday, December 21, 2006

Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins could be coming to a town near you, for good.

The Pittsburgh franchise, up for sale and in desperate need of a new arena, suffered a possible death blow yesterday when the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board voted unanimously to award the city's only slot-machine licence to Don Barden and PITG Gaming Majestic Star.

"The decision by the Gaming commission was terrible news for the Penguins, their fans and the NHL," commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "The future of this franchise in Pittsburgh is uncertain and the Penguins now will have to explore all other options, including possible relocation."

Mario Lemieux and the rest of Pittsburgh's embattled ownership group had been counting on the Isle of Capri--a gaming company committed to building a new US$290-milllion arena for the team--landing the slots licence.

Mr. Barden's winning proposal now calls for the construction of a US$450-million, 400,000 square-foot casino on the banks of the Ohio River. The Detroit businessman has also pledged US$7.5-million a year over 30 years to help fund a new arena.

But by then Crosby and company could be almost anywhere.

Mr. Bettman's mention of "relocation" comes a day after the National Post reported that Jim Balsillie's US$175-million offer to buy the Penguins was withdrawn after the NHL attempted to add two-dozen last-minute conditions to the purchase, including one that would have prevented moving the franchise until at least 2013.

Yesterday, an NHL source who asked not to be named disputed the claim the league had slapped Mr. Balsillie, the billionaire co-founder of Research in Motion, with any "last minute" conditions whatsoever.

The source said the league was in constant written and verbal contact with Mr. Balsillie over the past three months, and had been willing to wave the "no-relocation" condition--a standard feature of every NHL purchase agreement -- to work with the Balsillie bid.

But the source also said Mr. Balsillie would have needed to be amenable to trying to keep the team in Pittsburgh, even if Isle of Capri failed to win the gaming licence that would provide the Penguins with a new arena.

"Our preference is for the club to stay in Pittsburgh," deputy NHL commissioner Bill Daly said yesterday. "The commissioner has been very clear from the start that the team needs a new arena and if it wasn't going to get a new arena on terms that made economic sense to the Penguins, the team should move.

"But we wanted to make sure that Pittsburgh was given every opportunity to step to the plate and make a viable arena deal."

Yesterday, MR. Balsillie declined to respond to Mr. Daly's comments. Instead, he said the Isle of Capri bid, which he

actively supported, "deserved to win on its merits for the taxpayers, for the city, for the fans and for the team."

However, hockey observers wondered why the league refused to bend on the controversial relocation issue last week when Mr. Balsillie was scrambling to close the deal.

The current Plan B in Pittsburgh involves an injection of public money. Local government officials have stated that the city would potentially be willing to build a new arena, but the team owners would have to agree to contribute as much as $100-million to its construction over a 30-year period.

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We Are All Canucks
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Havlat said:
you got a better idea??
Winnipeg, Quebec City, Saskatchewan, Seattle, Wisconsin, Hell put in another Toronto team like New Yorks got. That satisfy you? Friggen Kansas, what a joke
 
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