Pirates, Cumberland County Civic Center at odds over lease

If the Portland Pirates are going to play anywhere other than the Cumberland County Civic Center — this year or beyond — it's not going to be far away.

Brian Petrovek, Dave Andrews
Gordon Chibroski

Brian Petrovek, right, managing owner and CEO of the Portland Pirates, answers questions as Dave Andrews, president and CEO of the American Hockey League, listens during an announcement that the AHL all-star game will be held in Portland, Maine, in 2010, on Thursday, April 23, 2009, in Portland. (AP Photo/Portland Press Herald, Gordon Chibroski)

The AHL hockey club and the building's trustees are at odds over the team's lease to use the facility. That friction may result in even more games being shifted to the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston, which is already scheduled to see 13 games this season due to extensive renovations at the Portland facility.

Team CEO Brian Petrovek said Friday that's not what the team wants, but what it may be forced to do so if an agreement isn't reached.

"I say this with all due respect, I hope we don't have to play any more games in Lewiston this year," Pirates' CEO Brian Petrovek said in a phone interview Friday. "However, if we can't resolve our differences in Portland, it is our second home and it's the first place we would look to play the remainder of our games."

Petrovek also hinted Lewiston may be his only option if he wants to maintain his hold on the greater Portland market.

"Our intention is to stay in this market, and there's no other facility within a 50-mile radius inside our footprint that gives us control of the market and allows us to continue building a business that is very critically tied to our practice and training facility in Saco. There's no place else to play, other than Lewiston, and we're not leaving this market."

At issue is a lease the two parties tentatively agreed to back in April. The State of Maine's Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages & Lottery Operations ruled a portion of the agreement related to food and beverage revenue void because the Pirates cannot share in liquor sales since they are not the property owner.

Under the April agreement, the team was slated to get 57½ percent of food and drink sales. The final contract Civic Center officials gave to the team offered 65 percent of food sales, but no alcohol sales, Petrovek said. The increase in the percentage of the food was not enough to compensate for the lost beverage sales. As a result, the Pirates asked for a greater percentage of food sales to offset the loss of alcohol sales it had hoped to get.

The second issue, according to Petrovek, deals with the definition of above-ice advertising and the revenue stream it generates.

"It's two issues that are resolvable and fixable, for sure," Petrovek said. "And they're not ones we're trying to renegotiate, we're just trying to come up with language that reflects what we agreed to in April."

The Pirates were already out of a home for the first half of their home schedule in 2013-14 due to a multi-million dollar arena renovation project that county residents voted on and passed in November 2012.

The original schedule called for 12 games in Lewiston through Dec. 31. When the AHL released its official schedule, a 13th game in Lewiston appeared on Jan. 10, 2014. Multiple sources affiliated with the Colisee and with the Pirates' organization have said publicly since then that even more games may be in the offing depending on how quickly the project is completed, perhaps as many as seven more for a total of 20.

But, Petrovek said, the ultimate goal is to remain based in the state's largest market.

"We built our business on the basis of playing at a renovated Civic Center in Portland," Petrovek said. "And that's what we're going to do everything that we can to do for the long haul. We know a lot about what's happening (in Lewiston), and we're playing games there, but our focus is on getting this resolved and getting this lease signed."

Petrovek said he's offered to sit down and meet with the Civic Center's board through the weekend if necessary.

"We invited them to meet with us any time through the weekend until next Wednesday," Petrovek said. "If they're unwilling to do that, we have to pursue other alternatives."

But, he reiterated, leaving the state for another major market isn't one of those options.

"This is not what we expected to have happen, but we're not going to leave the market so that they can just get another team in here. It's not going to happen."

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Comments

JUSTIN PELLETIER's picture
staff

Frank, Portland is twice the

Frank,

Portland is twice the size of Lewiston, both in population and in terms of the capacity of the rink. Lewiston is not really the right kind of market on its own for an AHL team. Portland holds in the 7,500 range, while Lewiston is a shade less than 3,800.

That said, Lewiston is a good temporary fit for the Pirates because it allows the team to maintain its territorial rights over Portland by league rule, preventing the CCCC from trying to lure another team in behind them.

Ultimately, the better market for the Pirates is, in fact, Portland. That is where, I suspect, the team will end up. The more the sides delay, the more hockey we see here in Lewiston, but an AHL franchise is not a good permanent fit for this rink.

Bring me an ECHL team, on the other hand, and now we're talking.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

What are the differences??????

What are the capacities of the two locations? Having attended several concerts in Portland, it reminded me of sitting in the bleacher section of the "Colosseum" in Rome. not very comfortable. My daughter having worked constructing stages at both Lewiston and Portland has given me a chance to see both arenas.
As far as comfort and aesthetics go, my vote would be for Lewiston. I feel that if the owners of the Lewiston facility play their cards right, this could be big for Lewiston. After all there's plenty of practice ice available, with the new ice arena on Turner St. Not to mention a built in fan base.

Chuck Masselli's picture

Why

Why does the team need to be identified with a particular city? Why not simply....The Pirates? Or, if a geographical identity is needed..."The Maine Pirates"

Jason Theriault's picture

Well

What I would love to see happen is for the NHL to admit defeat, move the Phoenix team to Quebec City, and then you could call them the Maine Nordiques.

Awesome? Yes...

Jason Theriault's picture

The Lewiston Pirates?

Yes please!

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