Pittsburgh Penguin owner Mario Lemieux could move the team to Kansas City. ((Andrew Rush/Associated Press))

Penguins owner Mario Lemieux met with Kansas City officials Wednesday as part of his exploration to move the NHL club from Pittsburgh.

Kansas City has a new arena, the $276-million US Sprint Center, which is scheduled to open in time for the start of the 2007-08 NHL season.

"We have heard many great things about their new building," read a statement from Lemieux and co-owner Ron Burkle before Wednesday's meeting, adding that "we will continue to explore other options as well."

The statement also said that Lemieux and Burkle will meet with Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl on Thursday.

"Our hope is to reach a new arena deal as soon as possible that will best ensure the economic health and long-term future of the Penguins franchise."

A spokesman for the company that will operate the Sprint Center said a news conference will be held in Kansas City late Thursday morning, though it is believed the Penguins' ownership team will visit other cities who have expressed interest in a franchise.

The Penguins' future in Pittsburgh was thrown into doubt after Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie withdrew his offer to buy the club and the state Gaming Control Board denied Isle of Capri Casino Inc. a slots licence last month.

Isle of Capri was one of several candidates bidding for a casino licence for a new downtown Pittsburgh slot-machine parlour.

The company had agreed that if it got the licence, it would build a new $290-million US arena to replace the 45-year-old Mellon Arena, the oldest facility in the NHL.

Should the team move to Kansas City, it would be that city's second time with an NHL franchise. The Kansas City Scouts lasted just three seasons in the league (1974-1976) before relocating to Colorado.

Other cities that have expressed interest in the Penguins include Houston, Winnipeg, Portland, Ore., and possibly Oklahoma City.