LEWISTON — It’ll either be a circus at the Colisee on Saturday night or a hockey game.
It won't be both.
The 61st annual Kora Shrine Circus is booked to perform three shows at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee this weekend, including a 7 p.m. show on Saturday. The Portland Pirates are scheduled to play the St. John’s IceCaps at the same time. The Shriners and the Pirates have each proclaimed they are the rightful owners of that 7 p.m. slot, and that the other is going to have to find another venue.
The parties — including Colisee owner Jim Cain — have known about the conflict for some time, but the Pirates went on the offensive Saturday.
The team had been scheduled to play Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Colisee. In early April, because of the conflict, the team agreed to reschedule the Friday and Sunday games. They’re not interested in rescheduling the April 19 game.
Last Saturday, April 12, the team, through its communications office, issued a press release announcing it will play at the 7 p.m. slot as scheduled. And that the scheduled Team Award Ceremony will take place following the game, which is the last one of the season.
Not so fast, the Shriners said.
“There may be a hockey game, but it’s not going to be at the Colisee,” said Shriner Al Milburn, who is the Lewiston facilities coordinator for the charitable group’s annual circus performance. “Our contract supersedes their contract,” he said, and was signed three years ago guaranteeing the April 18 and 19 dates and showtimes.
The Pirates entered an agreement with the Colisee to play its 2013-14 schedule at the Colisee in late September.
“So,” Milburn said, “we’re going to be having our show. I don’t know what they’re going to do.”
The Shriners, through Recorder Paul Sherman, declined to make an official comment on the scheduling conflict. The Pirates also declined to speak with the Sun Journal, other than to reiterate the team’s Saturday statement.
The Shriners and the Pirates are both selling tickets for their Saturday events, and both are promoting their appearances. Both are also getting a lot of phone calls from ticket holders and others who want to know what group actually has the right to the 7 p.m. time slot.
According to Milburn, Colisee owner Jim Cain told the Shriners last week that “we will be having a circus” Saturday night, but Cain wasn’t saying that Monday.
“We're working on a solution now," he told the Sun Journal at about 4 p.m. "It's going to take a lot of work from both sides, but we believe we can get it done."
Milburn doesn’t see how it’s possible for the rink to be available for hockey at all over the weekend. “We’re going to be moving in there on Thursday, and the floor is going to be covered with wood,” he said. Then workers will bring in the circus gear, including hanging expansive equipment in the rafters, while other crews bring in the animals, and “it’s going to be awful” in there, Milburn said.
The Pirates can take a hard line if they want, he said, and “we’ll see where it goes. But we’re having a circus there Saturday night.”
The Portland Pirates are the American Hockey League affiliate of the Phoenix Coyotes and played this past season at the Colisee after being unable to reach agreement with the Cumberland County Civic Center in a lease dispute last fall. The Pirates will return to Portland for the 2014-15 season and have signed a five-year deal with the CCCC.
The Kora Shrine Circus has performed in Portland, Lewiston and Augusta every year since 1953, and will appear at the Colisee on Friday and Saturday. Shows in Portland will be performed Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and then in Augusta on Friday and Saturday, April 25 and 26.
All proceeds from the performances benefit Kora Shriners, a fraternal organization that supports the Shriners Hospitals for Children and other charitable programs.
Sports Editor Justin Pelletier contributed to this report.