City acquires land for potential new arena

Updated: September 22, 2006, 2:45 PM ET news services

PITTSBURGH -- Allegheny County executive Dan Onorato and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said Friday that land for a potential a new arena for the Pittsburgh Penguins has been secured.

At a press conference Friday, they also asked the hockey team to commit to staying in Pittsburgh.

The Penguins, which are for sale, say the team could move if an arena isn't built to replace the 45-year-old Mellon Arena, the oldest and smallest in the National Hockey League.

Several bidders are interested in the team, and some have said they would pay for or help fund a new arena. But not all bidders have committed to keeping the team in the city.

The Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Sports and Exhibition Authority needed to buy 10 properties to make room for the new arena. It has purchased nine of them.

The authority said it has tentatively agreed to a deal with the owners of the 10th property.

A report surfaced last week that Jim Balsillie, chairman and co-CEO of Research in Motion, the Ontario-based company maker of Blackberry, had emerged as a frontrunner to buy the Penguins.

Citing two sources with knowledge of the sale process, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported last week that it was the second time Balsillie has pursued the NHL team -- he was the reported Canadian bidder who almost signed on with the Penguins in July. The Post-Gazette also reported that Balsillie backed out of those original talks when he saw how complicated it would be to carry out his believed wish -- to move the team to Hamilton, Ontario.

It is not know what Balsillie's intentions are this second time around, the Post-Gazette reported.

After Balsillie's first attempt, four other suitors, Hartford real-estate developer Sam Fingold, New York businessman Andrew Murstein and Ohio businessman and Ringgold High School graduate Jim Renacci, engaged in a bidding war.

The Post-Gazette reported that while the trio remains interested in the team, Balsillie is ahead of them with his offer. In July, his offer was reported to be between $175-$180 million.

It still isn't clear whether Balsillie will try to move the Penguins if he does take control of the Penguins, but the new owner is tied to the team's Isle of Capri Gaming deal. The Isle of Capri will give $290 million toward a new arena if it is awarded a slots license this year, according to the newspaper.

The Penguins' lease with Mellon Arena runs out in June.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.