Portland, Houston join list of Penguins suitors

First, it was Kansas City and Oklahoma City. Now, other cities are reportedly showing interest in the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Sources have told TSN of Canada that Portland and Houston are also interested in landing the team.

The news comes a day after a Pittsburgh city councilman proposed a "Plan C" to keep the Penguins in town. Councilman Bill Peduto told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that local officials should offer the team something to better other cities' bids, such as a share of profits in the Mellon Arena redevelopment.

"This is the perfect opportunity for [Detroit businessman Don Barden], the Penguins, the city, the county and the state to partner together," Peduto told the newspaper. "It's a great way to keep the team in Pittsburgh, redevelop the Hill, get Barden more involved in the community, and lessen the impact on taxpayers."

Peduto believes adding potential redevelopment profits would make it very difficult for other interested cities, like Kansas City, to match. According to the report, such a plan would be similar to deals held by the Steelers and Pirates, who both receive a piece of revenue profits for Heinz Field and PNC Park redevelopments.

The Penguins and owner Mario Lemieux have been seeking a new
arena in Pittsburgh and already have an offer to move to Kansas City.

Over the weekend, an Oklahoma City business group said it was interested in landing the Penguins and was expected to extend a formal invitation next week for the team to visit the city's Ford Center arena.

"We've always had an interest in the NHL or anything that contributes to Oklahoma City or the Oklahoma environment," Bob Funk, the founder and CEO of Express Services Inc. and the owner of the Oklahoma City Blazers hockey team, told The Oklahoman. "I think the NHL has a good future."

Funk and Brad Lund, CEO of Funk's Express Sports, met with Oklahoma City leaders Thursday and tabled for the weekend a decision to invite the Penguins, the newspaper reported.

"It's Pittsburgh's team to lose, and Kansas City is well ahead of us," Lund acknowledged.

Funk said he would not go forward without consultation from Oklahoma City leaders, who have sought to bring an NBA franchise to town on a permanent basis. Oklahoma City currently hosts the NBA's Hornets, who are scheduled to return to New Orleans after this season.

"Like we've talked about before, the first team in certainly would have the advantage," Funk said. "That ended up being the NBA. If the NBA is not going to be here, then I would think there would be corporate support for hockey."

Funk also speculated that an NHL team could land in Tulsa, if an NBA team is in Oklahoma City. Tulsa is building a new downtown arena scheduled to open in 2008.

"I'll talk to Tulsa," Funk said. "That's always a possibility, too. We have very successful [Central Hockey League] operations in Tulsa. Our operations over there are doing very well and they have been for a long time."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.