Many Penguins fans never thought this day would come…the day that we began building a new arena (Penguins.com).
Mario Lemieux, as well as many other team officials and politicians, carried out the official groundbreaking ceremony to commence building plans for the new multipurpose arena. As easily the most influential professional athlete to ever play in Pittsburgh, the groundbreaking is just another item to add on his list of contributions to the franchise and city.
The common word being tossed around regarding Lemieux and the arena is now “relief.”
“It felt pretty good; it’s been a long time coming and a lot of hard work from a lot of people through the years from the Penguins side and, of course, our politicians,” he said. “To be here and to see it going up in the next couple years is something that is exciting for all of us – not only the Penguins, but the region in general. The entire community should be proud of this building going up in the next two years and being able to enjoy it for the next 30 years.”
The new arena is really a huge accomplishment. Mario was a victim of many promises that never were fully realized. He got verbal commitments from state politicians, yet was unable to secure an agreement time after time.
It’s a bit unfortunate that the deal took so long, and Lemieux had to go through so much. However, it paid off in the end and now Lemieux can breathe easy knowing his work is complete.
“There were a lot of ups and downs throughout the negotiations. I got frustrated a few times, but, at the end of the day, I wanted this team to stay here,” he said. “I have been with this franchise since 1984 and it would have been a shame to see this franchise go somewhere else. The Penguins belong in Pittsburgh and that’s where we are today.”
What came out of today that was the most interesting came from a Tribune Review article in which Mario was quoted revealing his tactics in the bargaining process before the arena deal was made.
In Lemieux’s words, “It wasn’t a possibility” to leave Pittsburgh.
“We had to do a few things to put pressure on the city and the state, but our goal was to remain here in Pittsburgh all the way. Those trips to Kansas City and Vegas and other cities was just to go, and have a nice dinner and come back.”
“(Pressure) was felt, and that was the important thing. A lot of things happened throughout the negotiations. Ups and downs. That was just a way for us to put more pressure, and we knew it would work at the end of the day,” Lemieux said.
Governor Ed Rendell was at the groundbreaking ceremony, and his spokesman responded to Mario’s comments.
“If it was a negotiating tactic it was a good one,” said Chuck Ardo, spokesman for Gov. Ed Rendell. “We’re just pleased that the Penguins are in Pittsburgh where they belong. As to how real the possibility of their moving was, I think it is a matter of history.”
Once again, Mario proved that he is a great person along with being a Hall of Fame hockey player.
The new arena has a page on the Penguins’ website. You can access it here.
~Chris @ Pittsburgh Puck Talk