MARIO LEMIEUX STATEMENT ON PENGUINS OWNERSHIP
Last Friday, Jim Balsillie sent us a letter terminating his agreement to purchase the Pittsburgh Penguins. He stated that he could not come to an agreement with the National Hockey League. We were shocked and offended that Mr. Balsillie would back out of such an important deal at the last minute - and less than a week before a decision on the funding of a new arena that will have far-reaching implications on our franchise, our city and our region. As a result, we intend to retain Mr. Balsillie's deposit because we believe him to be in breach of our agreement. We can say unequivocally that the deal with Mr. Balsillie is dead.
As you know, the long-term future of the Penguins in Pittsburgh is dependent on a new arena. That has been our stance since we purchased the team out of bankruptcy in 1999. When our group bought the team more than seven years ago, I never could have imagined that we would be standing here today, still without a new arena. But that is the reality.
We were told repeatedly during the first six years of our ownership that there would be no public money available to pay for an arena. We were told repeatedly that we would have to somehow come up with private funding for a project that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Against all odds, and thanks to Isle of Capri Casinos, we did that. We brought the Isle of Capri to the table with an offer to privately fund construction of a $290 million arena as part of a $1 billion-plus development plan in the Lower Hill.
We always have been encouraged by the support the Isle's bid has received from the public and many local elected leaders. In an online poll conducted by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 87 percent of the respondents supported the Isle of Capri. In an online poll conducted by the New Pittsburgh Courier, 88 percent supported the Isle of Capri. Meanwhile, more than 80 elected officials, including Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, members of City and County Council, and members of the state legislature - from both sides of the aisle - have pledged their support to Isle of Capri. Many have asked us, in light of Mr. Balsillie's withdrawal, what we will do in the event that the Isle of Capri is not awarded the license. Will we negotiate a Plan B? Will we continue our efforts to sell the team? What I can tell you is that we are solely focused on the Isle of Capri's bid, which would ensure the Penguins' future in Pittsburgh for the long term. If the Isle is not successful on Wednesday, we will have to consider all of our options.
Our ownership group has worked very hard for the past seven years to keep the Penguins in Pittsburgh. We now have a very exciting young team with a tremendous future on the ice. If the Isle of Capri is successful on Wednesday, it guarantees that the tremendous future will be right here in Pittsburgh.