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Report: Pens could move under developer's plan

PITTSBURGH -- A Massachusetts developer wants to buy the
Pittsburgh Penguins and either keep the hockey team in the city or move them
to Hartford, Conn., where he is trying to get state officials to
build a new arena, a newspaper reported Friday.

Lawrence Gottesdiener told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he
owns a great deal of property in Hartford, so moving the team there
makes sense for him.

"I see a really exciting future for that team," Gottesdiener
told the newspaper. "If it can't be worked out in Pittsburgh ...
we have a really huge real estate portfolio in Hartford."

"As a policy, we're not going to comment and we're not going to
confirm or deny any of these inquiries," Penguins spokesman Tom
McMillan said Friday.

Gottesdiener also didn't immediately return a call to his office
from The Associated Press.

Late last year, Gottesdiener told Connecticut officials that he
had a plan to bring an NHL team to the city if they would help him
build a new 16,000-seat arena in Hartford, where his company,
Northland Investment Corp., of Newton, Mass., owns about $500
million worth of real estate.

The Penguins' lease on 45-year-old Mellon Arena, the oldest and
smallest in the NHL, expires at the end of next season. Penguins
owner Mario Lemieux is trying to sell the team and he has said a
new owner would likely move out of Pittsburgh without a new arena.

There are two proposals to build a new arena for the team in
Pittsburgh.

Both proposals are tied to gambling. Three companies are now
seeking the right to open a slot machine parlor in Pittsburgh. Only
one will win a license from the state to do so.

One of the companies, Isle of Capri Casinos, has agreed to pay
the entire cost for a new one if it is awarded the license.

City, county and state officials have countered with a backup
plan that would require the Penguins to pay $8.5 million up front
and make annual lease payments of $2.9 million. That plan calls for
contributions from whichever gambling company wins the slots parlor
license.

Penguins representatives on Thursday discussed the backup plan
with city and county officials.

A Penguins consultant, David Morehouse, told the newspaper after
that meeting that the team didn't learn enough about the proposal
to decide whether to accept the alternative arena plan.

"There are still a number of questions that have to be answered
before we can determine if it's viable," Morehouse said.

Among other things, he said it's not clear if Gov. Ed Rendell
could legally use slot machine proceeds to help fund the arena or
whether another casino company would agree to contribute.

Hartford lost its NHL franchise when the Whalers moved to North
Carolina and were renamed the Carolina Hurricanes.

Gottesdiener called the Penguins "an excellent entry point to
get into the NHL. We've said that we're in this to buy an NHL
team."