It’s clear to those in Pittsburgh that the Penguins need a new arena. The hockey world is well aware of that fact as well.
“There’s no question the Penguins need a new arena,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who attended the Penguins’ home-opening game Saturday night.
The Penguins currently play in Mellon Arena, which is the NHL’s oldest facility – it opened in 1961. Through its new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the NHL created a new financial environment, which has ensured small-market teams like the Penguins can have a chance to survive and compete with every other team if they are able to generate the funds to do so.
“We have a long history with Pittsburgh over the last few years. Every step of the way, we’ve believed Pittsburgh has a market and is the type of place where we belong,” Bettman said. “We needed to make the changes we made in order to ensure a franchise like Pittsburgh would have a future. In that regard, it’s great to see the fan reception here.”
However, Bettman stresses that a new facility isn’t just needed for the Penguins, but for a center of civic pride and entertainment in Pittsburgh throughout the year.
“It’s not just about the Penguins, it’s really not,” he said. “It’s about having a state-of-the-art arena downtown so 200-plus nights a year, people will have a reason to come downtown for family shows, conventions – there are lots of reasons to have an arena that go beyond the Penguins.”
Bettman says the NHL is in favor of the Penguins applying for and possibly receiving one of Pennsylvania’s forthcoming slots licenses and using such a facility to generate revenue to help defray the costs of a new arena.
“Anything sensible that would enhance the prospects of a new arena, we support obviously,” he said. “With the new economic system (in the NHL), people can feel comfortable knowing that the franchise has a bright future now.”