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Penguins Lawsuit Faces Pressure

October 11, 1998

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ A lawyer for Roger Marino, citing a slowdown in ticket sales, has demanded that the city and Allegheny County drop their lawsuit against the Pittsburgh Penguins co-owner.

Attorneys for city agencies received a letter Friday from James Weisman, Marino’s attorney, saying the lawsuit has alarmed fans and therefore discouraged them from buying tickets for the 1998-99 season.

The suit ``has seriously interfered with the significant progress being made to breathe new life into the Pittsburgh Penguins,″ the letter read.

Steve Leeper, executive director of the Public Auditorium Authority, said the lawsuit will proceed.

The Public Auditorium Authority, a city-county agency that owns the Civic Arena, and SMG Pittsburgh Inc., which operates it, filed the lawsuit Wednesday in Allegheny County Court, seeking an order to bar any discussions about relocating the team before its lease commitments expire June 30, 2007.

The financially strapped Penguins had signed a contract stipulating they not discuss moving the team until then.

The suit alleged that Las Vegas officials secretly provided Marino with the terms under which they would relocate the Penguins and that Marino has also talked with officials from Houston, Oklahoma City and Kansas City.

In his letter, Weisman repeated Marino’s denial of the accusations.

Last week, the Penguins asked the city and the arena agencies to consider a $4 million rent reduction. Last year, the county’s Regional Asset District pledged $12.9 million to improve the Civic Arena.

Weisman’s letter also complained that the Penguins have been promised less help than the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Pittsburgh Pirates, both of which have been promised new stadiums.

Judge Paul F. Lutty Jr. has scheduled a conference Wednesday about the case.

Marino and co-owner Howard Baldwin are at odds over the financially strapped franchise.

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