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Downtown banners for Penguins put on ice

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Two giant Downtown banners heralding the Pittsburgh Penguins quest for the Stanley Cup have been put on ice thanks to a quarrel between City Council and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's administration.

Athletic equipment maker Reebok and the Penguins asked city officials last week if they could drape banners of Penguins Captain Sidney Crosby and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury on Fifth Avenue Place and perhaps a second Downtown building, city officials said.

"We would certainly offer the building provided that all appropriate procedures and approvals are followed," said Byron Falchetti, president of Standard Property Corp., the real estate arm of Fifth Avenue Place owner and health care giant Highmark Inc. "From a broad community viewpoint, we would like to participate in these types of things."

The temporary promotion would require City Council's approval, but no one has yet proposed the required legislation. Time is running out -- the Penguins are set to play the first game of the Stanley Cup finals against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday in Detroit.

Questions over the legality of large advertisements have been at the center of a legal battle between City Council and Lamar Advertising, which built an electronic billboard Downtown without a normally required public review. Some council members are worried that if the banners of the Penguins are permitted, it could affect their legal fight against Lamar's billboard.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said he was in favor of the Penguins banners, but he wanted City Council unanimous support before allowing them because of a moratorium City Council has placed on such advertisements.

"Unfortunately, we didn't get to the point where (unanimity) was going to take place," Ravenstahl said of council. "It was clear to me that there was some politics being played, and I think that was unfortunate."

The effort was canceled.

"I didn't want a negative cloud cast over what's an exciting time in Pittsburgh," the mayor said.

Penguins spokesman Tom McMillan said the Reebok-sponsored banners were one of many promotions team officials considered.

"As happens with a lot of these things ... some of the ideas you just don't have enough time to pull them off," McMillan said.

McMillan said the banners haven't been produced.

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