The Pittsburgh Penguins recently unveiled their state of the art practice facility in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania. Their goal is that it will be considered a one stop shop for all things hockey. Inside this massive facility are two full-size NHL rinks, with one reserved specifically for the Penguins, a UPMC sports medicine section with 24 private treatment rooms, a physical therapy gym, a regular gym and 14 different locker rooms.
It’s one of the first of its’ kind and, more than likely, the most elaborate training facilities in the entire NHL. And the Penguins’ officials are hoping it could land some big name events. Here’s what vice president of communications Tom McMillan had to say about the complex.
I think it gives us the opportunity to potentially host the NHL Draft Combine, because we’d be the only facility where you wouldn’t have to bring in the medical testing; we already have it here. We’ve already talked to the NHL about that. We’re certainly going to be in the bidding for the World Cup of Hockey training camps. We think those kind of events that we wouldn’t have been able to access before, this gives us an opportunity to do those things.
Why Was It Built?
But ask yourself this question, why this and why now? The Pittsburgh Penguins are for sale and you would think that would be the organization’s top priority. However, just take a look at the future of the Penguins franchise. Short-term the team looks to contend for the Stanley Cup for at least the next three years, but the long-term future looks rather grim. Countless years of trading away prospects and draft picks have finally killed the farm system and that is totally fine.
The Penguins were constructed by being a very bad team for quite a while. How else would you land elite talents like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury. You could make the argument that other high draft picks like Olli Maatta and Derrick Pouliot deserve to be mentioned in that group, but they are both still a work in progress. And when Crosby, Malkin and Fleury age, the Penguins will go back to being a bad team, it’s the natural cycle of a professional sports franchise.
So moving back to the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, it was built for two very clear reasons. The first shouldn’t surprise anyone and it’s Mario Lemieux wanting to leave a legacy before he sells his share of the franchise. It still has yet to surface if Ron Burkle is selling his share of the Pittsburgh franchise, but this is Mario’s best chance to cash out, as Forbes has valued the Penguins at $565 million dollars. And there have also been some reports that the franchise could sell for as high as $850 million dollars.
And that is because the Penguins are a valuable franchise now, but they won’t be for more than five years. The team most likely has already peaked and it’s tough to convince a potential new owner to pay over $800 million dollars for an investment that will decline in value rapidly, so how do you pitch the team from Lemieux’s and Burkle’s point of view?
Well the first thing you do is you make a splash and taking a quote from the movie Draft Day.
Defenses don’t make a splash, people pay to get wet
Jim Rutherford goes out and acquires a great player in Phil Kessel to bolster the short-term value of the franchise. He keeps most contracts short in an attempt to give the new owners flexibility to create their vision when they takeover. And then you starting creating things you can entice potential buyers with. Things like an, almost, brand new stadium, in the Consol Energy Center, and a fancy new training facility that could host numerous events and bring in more revenue when the team declines.
At the root of everything the Penguins have done this offseason, it has been about bolstering the value of the franchise. Professional sports are multi-million dollar businesses and the Penguins are no exception.
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Michael Pityk is an analyst who has written for numerous sites since beginning his professional career. He’s acted as a credentialed member of the media for the Philadelphia Phillies, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Pirates and the Pittsburgh Penguins. His work has been featured in Sports Illustrated, The Sports Journal, MSN, PensLabyrinth, Montreal Hockey Talk, ESPN Pittsburgh, The Hockey Writers, Todays SlapShot and The Bleacher Report. He formerly was the editor of Pens Labyrinth and an analyst for The Sports Journal. Michael presently acts as an NHL Analyst for The Hockey Writers