Sports Outside the Beltway

Will AEG’s Kansas City Gamble Pay Off?

Its beginning to look as if AEG Worldwide’s $54m investment in the $276m Sprint Center may just work out. Due to open in the Fall 2007 and host the 2008 Big 12 Basketball Tournament, they may have just moved a step closer to fulfilling their goal of housing a NBA of NHL franchise. Unfortunately, this would come at the expense of the City of Pittsburgh who saw the push to keep the Penguins in the City dealt another blow.

The future of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins is uncertain after Isle of Capri Casino was denied a slots licence in the state capital Wednesday.

The state’s Gaming Control Board in Harrisburg approved a licence for PITG Gaming Majestic Star of Detroit over Isle of Capri and a third bidder, Forest City Enterprises. The NHL team is expected to release a statement later in the day.

The licence was critical to the club’s survival in Pittsburgh as Isle of Capri had promised to spend US$290 million to build the Penguins an arena. The Penguins need a new rink to replace the 45-year-old Mellon Arena, the oldest facility in the NHL.

The decision comes less than a week after a deal to sell the team to Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie fell through.

AEG has already made moves to ink a long term lease with William Del Biaggio III to own and operate an NHL team in the Sprint Center if one becomes available through expansion or relocation.

Given the current attendance struggles of the league, especially in what would be considered big hockey towns like Chicago and St. Louis, I find it hard to see the expansion occurring anytime soon. The Penguins are left with out funding or an owner to keep the team in Pittsburgh, even with assistance from the NHL trying to keep them there. With options running out, look out West as the NHL just may give AEG the chance to save the Penguins similar to when AEG took over the Kings and led them out of the disaster Bruce McNall created.

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