Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Dealing with the Pens and Politicians in Pittsburgh

The arena in Kansas City is not done. The building is not yet finished. So, no building sits waiting for the Penguins or any other NHL team, yet. The waiting might begin in the fall.

The lease for Mellon Arena for the Penguins expires at the end of this season.

Advice for Dan Ororato, Luke Ravenstahl and Jeff Koch, of Pittsburgh's City Council and a member of the Sports & Exhibition Authority, PA Senator, Wayne Fontana, also a joker on the SEA:

+ Invite the Penguins to sign a one year lease for Mellon Arena. Make the lease extension offer.

+ Invite the Penguins to play up to ten games per year at other venues until a new venue is built in Pittsburgh. And, the Penguins want to play 10 games in K.C. and 10 in Houston each year, let them do it.

The Penguins should be free to move. The Penguins should be free to stay and scout around a bit.

Should the Penguins build a fan base in Houston and Kansas City, they'll be building bridges back to the city of Pittsburgh too. Hell, let the team play games in Hamilton too. Play 4 in each town. Play in 4 different towns. That might get people in those towns hooked on the Pens and get them to future games in Pittsburgh. I think it would be cool to have the Pens play some home games in other cities while we work through this venue crisis.

That's cooperation.

That's a community solution.

That's a win-win solution.

That buys good will. And, the politicians deserve nothing from the Pens in the category of 'good will.' The politicans have done nothing.

Yesterday a member of city council, Tonya Payne, told me that she does not want to see the Penguins move off the the hill. Well, Tonya's wants and the reality of the situation are not the same. She is out of touch and too selfish. If anyone insists that the Pens stay in The Hill -- the Pens will depart. The grass is greener elsewhere when staying put means the upper downtown area and lower hill.

I want to be sure that the Pens have a long-term home in Pennsylvania. I want to have a solution that won't be back in the faces of the city and its fans again in 10-20 years.

A new public financed arena owned by the public authority with a 10, 20 or 30 year lease is going to mean we repeat the same old story again in 10 or 20 years. The Pens should have the juice to design, build, upkeep and own its own facility forever. And, the deal for the Pens needs to be one that makes that organization healthy too, without tax subsidization.

The leaders are going to need some creativity. And, this is what I fear most.

Dan Onorato and Luke Ravenstahl and even Governor can not begin the conversation with a re-hash of "Plan B finances." That isn't what any sales person would do. That isn't what Mario really wants to hear.

The sales process begins with questions to qualify the buyer. Overcome objections. Don't jump to finance matters.

Furthermore, it is the public officials job to tell the Pens that when they leave the Civic Arena, it is NOT their building. They'll leave their lease and the building will remain. So, if the Penguins want to come back and play 10 games a year as turn-back-the-clock games at our Civic Arena -- fine. We might be able to work out that deal.

Then the Pens could build a new arena out by the airport and make lots of money in multiple deals. Plus, a few times a year the Pens could have a golden opportunity to hold a special game in the city at the Civic Arena.

The Civic Arena isn't the best venue for the mega rock shows. Fine. But, there is a future for that building beyond the Penguins. And, if the Pens are willing to craft a deal and venue in the area, the Civic Arena might be a perfect venue for supporting other activities associated with the team and its fans -- beyond game-day hockey nights.

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