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Penguins sweeten bid for city's slot license

| Friday, March 3, 2006

The Pittsburgh Penguins and its casino partner raised their bid for the city's lone slots license Thursday, pledging to give their profits from developing the Mellon Arena site to a new nonprofit that would invest in the Hill District.

The investment would be in addition to Isle of Capri Casinos' offer to build a $290 million arena to replace Mellon Arena for the city's pro hockey team, which the partners say makes their proposal the best deal for the city.

While other casino applicants are facing public pressure to help pay for an arena, Isle of Capri's plan included money for an arena and a community development fund from the start, the Rev. James Simms, a consultant for the Penguins, said yesterday.

"There needs to be a recognition that from the very start, when our application went in, it included that as an integral part," said Simms, a paid consultant for the Penguins. "We didn't ask for a second chance to get it right or a do-over."

Isle of Capri partnered with the Penguins and Columbus, Ohio-based Nationwide Realty Investments on plans for a $1 billion development in the Lower Hill.

Simms and David Caliguiri, the son of the late Mayor Richard Caliguiri, were appointed yesterday to head a coalition of those three groups plus their community supporters, called Pittsburgh First. The group plans to form a nonprofit, called the Pittsburgh First Foundation, which would steer some gambling and development profits into the Hill District.

Simms said he hopes the foundation could start with $3 million to $5 million in seed money.

The backers of a proposed Harrah's Station Square Casino would create a $25 million endowment for the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation and give at least $1 million a year to community groups.

The third casino applicant, Detroit casino operator Don Barden, has said he would "significantly" contribute toward an arena if state gambling regulators say it's all right.

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