View Full Version : Lemieux meets with Kansas City

01-03-2007, 07:00 PM
Mario Lemieux and other members of the Penguins' ownership group met with Kansas City officials on Wednesday, increasing speculation that the team might leave Pittsburgh.

Michael Roth, a spokesman for Los Angeles-based Anschutz Entertainment Group, which will operate the new Sprint Center, issued a statement Wednesday confirming that meetings were scheduled with the ownership group of the Pittsburgh Penguins and his organization.

Company officials declined to comment further, but a news conference was planned for Thursday in Kansas City.

The team's future became unclear last month after its sale to Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie fell through and the state Gaming Control Board denied Isle of Capri Casino a slots licence.

Isle of Capri had promised to build a US$290 million arena for the Penguins if its bid was approved.

Lemieux said the team, which had been up for sale, was taken off the market following the failed Isle of Capri bid. He and partner Ron Burkle said they would begin considering relocation offers from cities outside of Pennsylvania.

"We are meeting with officials in Kansas City today as part of our effort to explore all of our options regarding a new arena," Lemieux said in a statement. "We have heard many great things about their new building, which is scheduled to open in time for the start of the 2007-08 NHL season."

Pittsburgh plays in the 45-year-old Mellon Arena, the NHL's oldest venue, and would have to stay there for several more years even if a new arena deal in Pittsburgh could be reached. The franchise's current lease expires in June.

The $276 million Sprint Center is under construction and set to open in the fall. The facility, which will seat about 18,000, is searching for an anchor tenant but has already sold out its 72 luxury suites. The arena is a public-private partnership between the city and Anschutz Entertainment Group, which also manages the NHL's Kings and STAPLES Center.

A deal to bring the team to Kansas City would almost certainly involve venture capitalist William (Boots) Del Biaggio III, who has a contract to own any NHL team based at the Sprint Center. Del Biaggio is a limited partner of the San Jose Sharks and part owner with Lemieux of the United States Hockey League's Omaha Lancers. He nearly bought the Penguins in 2005.

Messages left with Del Biaggio's office in Menlo Park, Calif., were not immediately returned.

Kansas City is believed to be the first city to extend an invitation for a visit to Lemieux and the Penguins' ownership team. Other cities that have expressed interest in the Penguins are Houston; Winnipeg; Portland, Ore.; and possibly Oklahoma City.

Lemieux and Burkle were scheduled to meet late Thursday with Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato and Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

The sides will likely discuss an improved Plan B agreement, which involves Detroit-based gambling company owner Dan Barden.

It was Barden's Majestic Star Casino that beat out Isle of Capri for the Pittsburgh's only slot machine parlour licence. The Barden group has pledged $7.5 million a year for 30 years to help fund a new arena. The state would also pay $7 million and the franchise would be responsible for 20 per cent of the cost.

Kansas City failed in its only attempt to support an NHL franchise.

The Scouts started strong in 1974, drawing about 15,000 fans to their first game. But the team was plagued by mismanagement and was grossly under-financed. Average attendance fell to about 7,300 within a year.

01-03-2007, 07:51 PM
If Mario takes the Pens to KC, I'm going to put him on the list with Barry Bonds! :cursin: It's not a good list!

MRS Steelerfan
01-03-2007, 09:11 PM
If Mario takes the Pens to KC, I'm going to put him on the list with Barry Bonds! :cursin: It's not a good list!

Can I add Johnny Damon to that list:cursin:

House of Steel
01-03-2007, 09:18 PM
Someone is going to attempt to assasinate Mario if he pulls the trigger on the move. That stupid backstabbing :cursin:

Forged in Steel
01-04-2007, 11:58 AM
Someone is going to attempt to assasinate Mario if he pulls the trigger on the move. That stupid backstabbing :cursin:

More like Matt Millen! If Mario does move the team to KC I'm going to burn my Mario Lemieux jersey.

House of Steel
01-04-2007, 11:59 AM
I think Pittsburgh will be in a violent riot over that move.

01-04-2007, 03:20 PM
Kansas City arena operator woos Penguins with offer of free rent

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Pittsburgh Penguins could play rent-free and be equal managing partners in the new Sprint Center if they move to Kansas City, under an offer unveiled Thursday by the arena's operating group.

Tim Leiweke, president of Anschutz Entertainment Group, said the Penguins would not have to buy into the management agreement. The US$276-million Sprint Center is scheduled to open in October.

The Penguins' owners, unhappy with the 45-year-old Mellon Arena, the NHL's oldest venue, have been exploring a move since a new arena deal fell through last month.

"We are not trying to steal the Penguins," Leiweke said. "We have been very respectful of their process. We understand that this is Pittsburgh's to lose, and we respect that."

Anschutz officials, including former Pittsburgh star Luc Robitaille, met Wednesday and Thursday with Penguins owner Mario Lemieux, his partner, Ron Burkle, and other team representatives.

"They have told us they will make a decision within 30 days," Leiweke said. "We will know within 30 days whether they are going to work out their issues in Pittsburgh and get an arena built, or whether they will ask the NHL for permission to move the team to Kansas City."

Pittsburgh has been trying to keep the Penguins in town with a Plan B agreement involving Detroit-based gambling company owner Dan Barden. Lemieux and Burkle were scheduled to meet late Thursday with Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, Allegheny County chief executive Dan Onorato and Pittsburgh mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

Finding a permanent tenant, either in the NHL or NBA, has been a priority for Kansas City. Officials are counting on the Sprint Center and an adjoining entertainment district to anchor downtown revitalization efforts.

But so far, the arena has commitments only for the 2008 Big 12 men's basketball tournament, which was once a fixture in Kansas City, and the annual BCE Classic, a four-game tournament sponsored by the National Association of Basketball Coaches.

The association's hall of fame, which will include a 40,000-square-foot interactive exhibit dubbed College Basketball the Experience, is being incorporated into the Sprint Center project.

Last month, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board denied a slots contract bid by Isle of Capri Casinos that would have guaranteed the construction of a $290-million arena.

And William (Boots) Del Biaggio III, the venture capitalist who has an agreement with Sprint Center management to own any NHL team that relocates to Kansas City, co-owns a minor league hockey team with Lemieux.

Kansas City has not had an NHL franchise since the Scouts - now the New Jersey Devils - left town in 1976 after two seasons in Kemper Arena.

The NBA's Kings, who relocated from Cincinnati in 1972 and spent three seasons splitting their home games between Kansas City and Omaha, moved to Sacramento in 1985.

01-04-2007, 08:48 PM
PITTSBURGH -- Penguins owner Mario Lemieux emerged from a "very positive" meeting with Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and local leaders Thursday night without hinting whether the team will stay or move to Kansas City.

Hours after touring the under-construction Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., Lemieux returned to Pittsburgh for his first in-person meeting with government officials since a plan to fund a $290 million arena with casino money was rejected. Neither side offered specifics about the so-called Plan B deal to build a replacement for Mellon Arena, but Lemieux did not appear disappointed by the talks.

"Hopefully, we'll move forward in the next week or so and really evaluate where we're going. but I'm very pleased with both meetings today," Lemieux said. "I've always been very optimistic [about staying in Pittsburgh]. I've been here for 20-some years. But we have to evaluate all of our options and that's why we went to Kansas City to look at what they had to offer."

Rendell did not talk to reporters after the meeting, but Allegheny County chief executive Dan Onorato said, "It was very productive, very productive. ... We're going to continue to negotiate and, hopefully, the next time you hear from all of us we can give you details."

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said another meeting with the Penguins has not been planned, but that discussions would continue. Both sides promised they would not negotiate in public.

Lemieux, one of most popular figures in Pittsburgh sports history, does not want to move the franchise -- and the NHL does not want to abandon the city -- unless there is no other option. But after seven unsuccessful years seeking a new arena, he is negotiating from a position of strength because of Kansas City's strong bid.

The Penguins, one of pro sports' hottest properties because of young stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, would pay no construction costs or rent in Kansas City. They would also have the opportunity to become partners in the building, and thus gain access to all revenues streams, for $27 million.

The initial Plan B proposal in Pittsburgh, made last March, called for the Penguins to pay $8.5 million up front, plus about $4 million per year. However, the Kansas City offer is all but certain to force Pittsburgh to offer a more lucrative deal. Neither side would say if the Penguins were offered a better deal Thursday.

Earlier in the day, Lemieux, billionaire partner Ron Burkle and team president Ken Sawyer toured the $276 million Sprint Center, which is due to open in October without an anchor major sports team tenant.

William "Boots" Del Biaggio III, a San Jose, Calif.-based venture capitalist and Lemieux acquaintance who nearly bought the Penguins in 2005, is expected to buy the team if it moves to Kansas City. He and Lemieux are partners in a minor league hockey team.

"We are not trying to steal the Penguins," Tim Leiweke, president of Anschutz Entertainment Group, said. "We have been very respectful of their process. We understand that this is Pittsburgh's to lose, and we respect that."

Leiweke expects a decision quickly. Lemieux is free to move the team after the Penguins' Mellon Arena lease expires in June.

"We will know within 30 days whether they are going to work out their issues in Pittsburgh and get an arena built, or whether they will ask the NHL for permission to move the team to Kansas City," Leiweke said.

The NHL has given every sign it wants the Penguins to stay in Pittsburgh, where it has played to nearly 94 percent of capacity this season, as long as a new arena is built. Canadian businessman Jim Balsillie had a deal in place to buy the team last month, only to pull out on the apparent closing date when the NHL told him he couldn't relocate the team.

That pullout came only days before a plan in which Isle of Capri Casinos would build a $290 million arena for free if granted the license to build a downtown slots machine parlor was turned down by the state gaming board. It chose one of two competing bids, by Detroit businessman Don Barden, who has agreed to pay $7.5 million a year toward a new arena but won't totally fund it.

Kansas City had an NHL team from 1974-76, but it moved because of low attendance. That team spent six years in Denver as the Colorado Rockies, but moved to New Jersey and was renamed the Devils in 1982. Kansas City also lost an NBA team it shared with Omaha, Neb., to Sacramento, Calif.

01-04-2007, 10:22 PM
I don't buy the "Pens will pay no rent thing and will keep all revenue." I have a bad feeling there is a scenario where if the Penguins go to Kansas City where there will be a HA! you feel for it sucker effect.

01-05-2007, 03:08 AM
Well I'm glad the two sides are meeting. I am praying to God something gets done.

01-05-2007, 04:50 AM
Something will get done. Rendell and Co better wake up.

01-08-2007, 06:07 PM
The longer this drags out the worse it becomes, I have some horrible feeling this is not going to end up good. KC had a team and didnt support it, what evidence is there for this time around to be any different? If they should move anyone it should be the Panthers who have low attendance in a non hockey market. I dont care if the Igloo is 45 years old, saying they are losing money with 94% attendance seems like hogwash to me. Especially with the ticket prices being so high.