Penguin Pandering

The conversation about whether the Penguins will leave Pittsburgh for warmer climes has reached a new, low level of epic lunacy.
"Who lost the Penguins?" could become to Pittsburgh politics what "Who lost China?" was to the national political debate of the 1950s, a source of never-ending, unresolvable bickering.

(from today's P-G "analysis" by James O'Toole.)

O'Toole is right on, though, with the implied claim that ice hockey is now the third rail of Pittsburgh politics. Were a local elected official to write or say something like "NHL hockey is a dying sport that relies on voodoo economics, and no responsible public official will write a $5 check to build an arena to house a team, come what may," the long knives of hockey boosters -- a vocal minority if there ever was one -- would be out in an instant.

Do the Penguins generate money for the region (does the team generate revenue that comes from outside Western PA that adds to the money that is already here)? No. Does the team provide jobs for young people? No. Are the Penguins a major draw for young professionals who might choose to move elsewhere? For the number who fill the Igloo night in and night out, maybe; for most, no again. And even for those drawn to stay by the Pens and by nothing else, why, again, should you feed at the public trough?

Should County Executive Dan Onorato's political future hinge on whether the Penguins stay or go? If he stands up and delivers a statement like the one I invented above, then I'll vote for him again. If he keeps on pandering, he's out. Pittsburgh's future is in doubt, and the Pens are becoming a distraction.


2 Responses to "Penguin Pandering"

Mark Rauterkus said... 3/07/2007 1:07 PM

Like most issues in life, I see three sides to the coin. Heads, tails, and the edge. I choose the edge. Plan Z.

My moment of head scratching is how Dan Onorato, Mr. Airport Corridor Development Cheerleader, has NOT connected the Pens new arena with airport land speculation opportunities. For him, and for the county, it is a slam dunk.

That's what I don't understand.

I want the Pens to move out of the city, and into Allegheny County. They could build a new arena by the old airport. And, there is plenty of upside for them to do countless land development deals for the next 30-years, creating an upside and new income streams for the team.

I want to grow the region. The potential of a Penguins Village, like an Olympic Village, is huge.

Lots would flock there to be a part of a modern 'progressive' urban village where the Pens venue becomes a town square.

It can't fit in the hill district.


Schultz said... 3/07/2007 3:48 PM

Mark, agreed, and its a shame because the current arena destroyed the culturally diverse lower hill and displaced thousands. While I agree with the O'Toole piece I don't think enough Penguins fans are city residents who actually vote so I think Mayor Luke is safe regardless of the outcome.

I think the guy that wrote the other article should stick to not knowing what the hell he is talking about. Hockey is not endangered. Despite horrendous marketing on the part of the NHL and its bumbling commishioner, the sport has made a huge comback - without a major network TV contract. Unlike baseball, small market teams like Pittsburgh and Buffalo can compete with the NY's and Boston's thanks to the new salary cap. The decision to put the All-star game on a weeknight was a huge lost opportunity to market the "new" NHL to weekend viewers. Huge miss, yes, but it doesn't mean the sport is endangered.

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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at] Mike also blogs at, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

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