Wednesday, March 07, 2007

One New Arena Please!

That’s all we’re asking for – just one new arena – one to replace the oldest arena in the NHL with something newer, something prettier, something the city of Pittsburgh can watch our beloved youngins play in year after year. After getting a new stadium for the Steelers and a new stadium for the Pirates, you would think the Pens would be next in line. We are. Sorta. Not really. It’s a long story that I’m sure most of you have been hearing bits and pieces of throughout the season. Well the story took a bad turn this week. But for those just tuning in, maybe I should start from the beginning of the mess.

Back in the day Mario once again saved the Pens, only this time he used his superpowers to pull us out of bankruptcy. And from that day forward all the poor boy has wanted for his Pens is a new arena so that they could be a competitive sports franchise. Every year, usually around elections he pleads with officials to get it done. Find the money and build it damn it. It’s time. It’s been time for a while. And every year the officials give him a smile and say “well money’s a bit tight right now Mario – maybe next year”.

Flash forward to this year. This season. When the Pens are making their first playoff run in ages. We have Sid, Malkin, Staal, Fluery, etc. We’re finally done rebuilding the team – now we’re on to the learning together, growing together, getting the Cup together stage. But nothing is ever easy. And of all things this is the final year on the Pens lease at Mellon Arena. The Pens need a new building. Right now. Their really aren’t any more tomorrows. It’s today or the highway. And so, with all of this in mind, Mario puts the Pens up for sale. You can’t blame the boy. He’s tired of dealing with the whole mess. Let someone else figure it out.

The intent letters pour in. There were several interested parties to buy the Pens. Finally the ownership decided on Jim Balsillie, the Canadian Blackberry boy. Jim’s game, Mario’s game, but Gary Bettman’s not. At the 11th hour, Bettman tells Balsillie that it’s crucial the Pens stay in Pittsburgh. No one is sure what the exact details of the deal were, but all of sudden Jim didn’t want anything to do with the Pens anymore. So he’s out. Mad and frustrated, Mario takes the team off the market.

As if this wasn’t enough drama for one season, a slot license is coming to Pittsburgh. The PA Gaming Control Board had their pick between several groups wanting to get their hands on the slot license. One of those groups was the Isle of Capri who had a deal going with the Pens. If Isle of Capri won, they would give the Pens $290 million for a new arena. The papers were signed, all that was needed was for the Gaming Board to give the go ahead. Petitions were signed, rallies were held, Pens fans came together. But on another 11th hour, on a new day, the Gaming Control Board awarded the license to a different group. One that hadn’t promised the Pens a new arena. Pens fans everywhere were left with the Malkin “what’s going on right now” look on their faces.

To make long stories short, the Pens have been looking at other arenas in other cities, most notably Kansas City. KC has built a new arena and is now trying to get a team. Governor Ed Rendell pulled out of his back pocket a “Plan B” option for the Pens. For the last several months the Pens and Fast Eddie have been discussing all the details of this Plan B deal (which has the main objective of keeping the Pens in Pittsburgh). Overall talks have been optimistic until this week.

A lovely little letter was composed by Mario and crew stating they’ve reached an impasse on the deal. They’re going to aggressively investigate other options. And they’re meeting with Ed and the boys (not to mention Bettman who is now acting as a mediator on the whole thing) tomorrow in Philly to hash out more things. More meetings. More talks. More ups and downs on the rollercoaster ride all Pens fans have been on this season. And I do mean that quite literally. You get a small high when a good article in the Post Gazette is written. And then you get the sinking pit in your stomach when the bad news hits.

What’s truly amazing through the whole thing is the fans. We fans have filled Mellon Arena for the last 21 home games. You can’t get tickets right now. I’m home on Spring Break and I tried to get tickets for this week for about a month. No luck. They’re sold out. Pittsburgh has one of the highest TV ratings for NHL games. The support is here. People in this town love their hockey team. And to have it taken away from us would be a shame. All we’re asking for is one new arena. Please!



Heather B. said...

I have a sentimental attachment to Pittsburgh - I was a mere babe in arms when we moved but I still have family there - so I'm really hoping the Pens find a way to stay put. PNC is *gorgeous* but the Pirates suck. It's too bad it can't somehow be converted to an ice rink so the local team that actually has some talent and potential can have an awesome place to play.

I realize I'm way behind, but whatever happened to Mark Cuban's group buying the team? I'd kill to have Cuban in the NHL!

Elly said...

*claps* Nicely rounded up. The part about the ups and downs was particularly poignant...I swear I've had an ulcer since November and every article makes it worse.

Heather b: Mario pulled the team off the market, but Cuban had backed off before then. He's since said that he felt that not putting together an exploratory panel was a mistake, since he can see how snazy the Pens are.

Shan said...

I don't understand how they didn't sell out ALL of their home games this season.

I don't think anyone wants Pittsburgh to move, even if Winnipeg or Quebec City were first in line, I wouldn't want them to leave Pittsburgh.

Where are the multimillionaires who know what a great thing the Penguins can be? Mark Cuban said he just didn't feel like he knew hockey well enough to get involved.