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Acreage offered as arena site

| Thursday, May 17, 2001, 12:00 p.m.

Penguins officials have made it known that they need more from Mellon Arena than the 40-year-old facility apparently can give.

And while officials have made no decisions about whether to renovate the Uptown landmark with its retractable stainless steel roof or build another arena, the mayor of McKeesport is hoping that his town will be considered if talk turns to finding a new location for a hockey arena.

McKeesport Mayor Wayne Kucich said if the Penguins decide to move, there are 130 acres of prime real estate in his town that would be perfect for a new arena.

Last month, Kucich sent a letter to Penguins owner Mario Lemieux asking him to consider the site of the former U.S. Steel National Tube Works as a possible location for a new hockey arena should the team decide to have a new facility built.

'It would be something different, something exciting,' Kucich said. 'If the Pens come here, it could mean an automatic rebuilding of the city.'

But for the moment, the future of the team's home remains uncertain.

The Penguins have paid $80,000 to PriceWaterhouseCoopers to study the costs of refurbishing Mellon Arena, but they also are in the process of purchasing St. Francis Medical Center, Uptown, for $8 million.

The sale, expected to be complete by mid-June, could offer room for a new arena or construction of a commercial area near Mellon Arena, according to Tom McMillan, vice president of marketing and communications for the team.

Since the team's plans are tenuous, Kucich believes it makes good sense to position McKeesport so it has the best chance of being considered if the decision to relocate is made.

The property proposed for use by Kucich is owned by the Regional Industrial Development Corp.

F. Brooks Robinson Jr., director of marketing for RIDC, said while the property is typically reserved for industry, RIDC would be willing to discuss a possible sports complex.

'If the Pens wish to talk to us about that, we would be happy to meet with them,' Robinson said. 'Let's go to the table, and let's talk about it.'

Kucich said if the Penguins decided to move to McKeesport, the city would do anything needed to make the move as smooth and seamless as possible, including building necessary roads and infrastructure to the complex.

He added that while some of the money needed for such construction might come from city dollars, much of that would be returned to the city through increased tax revenue and from new businesses attracted to the area.

Kucich said representatives of the Penguins have contacted the city and have said they would be willing to discuss the request. He could not give a specific date when talks might occur.

McMillan could not be reached for comment on McKeesport's request.

Joseph J. McCallister can be reached at jmccallister@tribweb.com or (412) 380-8536.

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