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The potentially high cost of building a hockey arena in the Theater District has a key Common Council member urging the city to go slow on choosing a site.

Ellicott Council Member James W. Pitts said Thursday he plans to introduce legislation next week that would delay a Council decision for up to six months.

Charles Rosenow, president of Development Downtown Inc., had asked the Council to make a recommendation by the end of this month. Pitts said the Council needs more information and wants a feasibility study first.

"Not only do we want to make a more intelligent decision, but we want to remain part of the process," Pitts said. "If we accept the recommendation now, it will disappear for three to six months before it comes back to us."

Mayor Griffin said today the idea appeared reasonable to him.

"It's probably a wiser way to go," he said.

Rosenow said there may be some confusion about what the Council has been asked to do. He said the recommendation is for a preferred site and not a final site. A final recommendation will require the studies desired by Pitts, he said.

Pitts also said he wants the feasibility and environmental studies to include the runner-up choice for the arena. That site, known as the Crossroads, is at the foot of Main Street.

Rosenow said that studying both would lead to increased costs.

"It's not our intent to double the cost by running tandem studies of equal value," he said. "That means no site at all is preferred."

Pitts said he also wants to continue negotiating with the Sabres to determine how much the hockey club will contribute to building the arena. He estimated the study will take three to six months.

Robert Pickel, Sabres senior vice president, said he did not have enough information to comment on Pitts' proposal.

Development Downtown, a city-controlled agency, has recommended the Washington Market site at Washington and East Chippewa streets as its first choice for a 20,000-seat arena sought by the Sabres.

The city and the Sabres have agreed on a five-year schedule that calls for the city to have control of a site and preliminary plans for an arena by March 1, 1992. The arena itself must be built by Aug. 31, 1994.

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