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Penguins reach agreement on new arena

Gov. Ed Rendell confirmed this morning the Penguins have reached a deal with city, county and state officials for a new Uptown arena that will keep the team in Pittsburgh for the next 30 years.

Details of the $290 million agreement will be announced before tonight's game against the Buffalo Sabres at Mellon Arena, which has been home to the team since it joined the National Hockey League in 1967.

Asked if he had sweetened the deal at all, Rendell said, "Of course."

Under the terms of the 30-year lease, the city-county Sports & Exhibition Authority will own the arena, which will be operated by the Penguins.

The team will get all the revenue from the arena and pay all operating costs.

The deal calls for the state to pay $7.5 million annually from a state economic development fund and slots revenues.

Don Barden, owner of Majestic Star Casino LLC, which has been awarded the slots license for Pittsburgh, will pay $7.5 million a year, and the team will pay $3.8 million a year, plus $400,000 a year in capital improvements.

The Penguins have an option of paying $500,000 a year to build a parking garage near the arena, which will be on sports authority property between Centre and Fifth avenues. The agency plans to break ground by September and complete construction by fall 2009.

The Penguins lease at Mellon Arena expires in June.

Word of the agreement comes a week after the Penguins declared that the talks had reached an impasse and renewed discussions with AEG, the company hired to operate Kansas City's new Sprint Center.

The deal was reached at Thursday's meeting between team co-owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle, Rendell, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman mediated the talks, which officials told reporters was held at a secret location in Philadelphia but actually were held in New Jersey.

Details were finalized over the weekend.

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