Mayor Bill Peduto to Penguins: Start spending on Civic Arena site development
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, a lifelong Penguins fan, blasted the team Friday for failing to start construction on the former Civic Arena property, vowing the city would reclaim part of the 28-acre tract if the owners miss another development deadline.
Peduto said the state and city 10 years ago gave the Penguins “an incredible deal” for a new hockey arena — Consol Energy Center — and exclusive development rights to the 28-acre arena site in the Hill District, but has yet to begin development.
He said it's time for Penguins owners to stop asking what “government's going to do for them” and start spending their own money.
Pittsburgh's Urban Redevelopment Authority and the city-county Sports & Exhibition Authority, which share joint ownership of the property, on Thursday gave the team until Nov. 9 to sign an amended development agreement.
“They have been given two weeks with the URA and the SEA,” Peduto said. “Unless they're able to deliver on their end, the simple truth is we'll take back the public land that they have under the agreement and we'll start to develop the property on our own.”
The Penguins declined comment.
On Thursday, Penguins president and CEO David Morehouse said the team has spent millions of dollars on predevelopment work and has retained companies for residential, office and entertainment venue projects.
Peduto would not discuss specifics of negotiations between the city and team, but said the Penguins want more public subsidies, “and that's just not going to happen.” He said he wanted an agreement from the team in “a few days” and would oppose another extension.
“At this point what they're asking is far too much,” he said. “We have commitments and we have obligations that we have met ... Now we want to see the Penguins put money on the table and start spending the money to develop this site and not wait for government to do it for them.”
The mayor noted that the original development agreement provided the Penguins with $15 million worth of credits to purchase the arena property and allowed the team to collect fees for parking on former Civic Arena lots.
“They don't even have to spend their own money in order to be able to buy the public's land,” Peduto said. “The public's paying for it.”
Last year, Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle, who represents the Hill District and is a member of the URA's board, estimated the Penguins had amassed $30 million in gross revenue from parking fees, a number he said he based on SEA figures.
“You have to understand this, the agreement that was signed by a previous administration guaranteed the Penguins all the revenue from parking,” Peduto said. “They're receiving all that money for not developing this. The public's not getting anything back.”