Don Barden seeks to rescind his $3M offer

Apparently, one meeting with the Pittsburgh Penguins last year was enough for Majestic Star Casino owner Don Barden to realize donating $1 million annually for three years to help the team build its new arena was not going to give him the return on his in

On April 17, Barden asked the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to remove that commitment from its casino application because the development rights he expected to receive on the 28-acre site where the Mellon Arena now sits were granted to “another party.”

That party is the Penguins. The Penguins won the development rights in negotiations with the state, county and city last year in order to keep them in town and build a new multi-purpose arena.

Barden’s commitment to contribute to redeveloping the majority Black Hill District, one of 57 conditions upon which his North Shore casino license was granted, was made prior to the arena deal. Still, because it was part of his formal application, the gaming board could hold him to it. The gaming board has not scheduled a hearing on the matter yet.

Carl Redwood Jr., who heads a coalition of community groups in the Hill seeking a development commitment from the Penguins, said he has no plans to petition the gaming board to force Barden to comply with his original application.

Redwood said he thought it was important for Barden to support development in the Hill District and added he could understand the decision if Barden is not going to realize a return. In addition to asking to be released from the $3 million commitment to the Hill, Barden also petitioned the gaming board for a change in his casino financing plan.

He had already secured a $350 million line of credit and a $185 million bridge loan, which has been used for the initial construction. One day earlier, however, Majestic Star announced its projected completion costs had ballooned nearly $200 million to $630 million due to construction delays related to court challenges to its license award and a general credit tightening resulting from the mortgage market crisis.

Barden is also seeking to modify his application with respect to the size of the casino’s controversial parking garages. He wants to reduce the number of spaces from the required 4,100 to 3,842. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said he wants the money used for the cityĆ¹ whether it goes to the Hill or not. A meeting Ravenstahl planned to have with Barden was postponed.

“My job is to protect the taxpayers of the city of Pittsburgh, and also the bottom line of the city,” said Ravenstahl. City Councilwoman Tonya Payne, whose district includes both the Hill District and the casino site, said the money should go to the Hill. “A promise made should be a promise kept,” she said. “If he made a promise to the Hill District, he should keep that money in the Hill District.” PITG/Majestic Star representatives declined to comment.

______ Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.  

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