LEWISTON – City officials announced Tuesday that a management contract with Global Spectrum, the company that has operated the Androscoggin Bank Colisee since 2003, will not be renewed when it expires on July 1.

The decision was reached this week after Veazie-based Firland Management arrived at an agreement-in-principle to purchase the Colisee from the city.

Firland would focus primarily on ice-related events, rather than concerts and entertainment.

“(We) will still run some events, but at the same time you can’t forget your focus,” said Jim Cain, the president of family-owned Firland Management. “Our approach will revert to more of a community-based function space, mostly ice-related programs.”

The sale hasn’t been formalized, but when it is the agreement will go before the City Council for a public hearing and a vote, City Administrator Jim Bennett said Monday. No sale price was released.

Under terms of the agreement, Firland would continue to honor the Maineiacs contract, Assistant City Administrator Phil Nadeau said last week. The team will begin the sixth year of its 15-season contract this fall.

The Colisee would be the first ice rink owned by Firland, Cain said. The company has extensive experience managing and consulting for rinks around the United States and Canada, Cain said.

“Privately owned ice rinks in general do not generate fantastic surpluses like some other businesses do, so they are difficult, and people really need to understand a programming and operating model in order to make them profitable,” he said.

The model hinges on hockey and other uses for the ice, such as free skating and possibly figure-skating classes.

“Everybody has to understand that the way the ice business works is that when you make ice, the sheet is there 24 hours a day, whether people use it or not,” Cain said.

City officials and representatives of groups that use the Colisee regularly, such as the Maineiacs and the Lewiston Area Youth Hockey League, say an increased emphasis on hockey would be good for the city.

Working with Firland might make some of the behind-the-scenes logistics at the Colisee go more smoothly, Maineiacs President and Gov. Matt McKnight said Monday.

There was no word on whether popular Maineiacs’ traditions, such as inexpensive food-and-tickets deals, would continue, McKnight said.

“We did bring it up, and it seems they’re certainly willing to work on that,” he said. “The purpose is to help sell tickets, and they certainly support us on that.”

Lewiston Area Youth Hockey is hoping for some sort of agreement, preferably a joint venture, that would prioritize its need for ice time under the new ownership, Treasurer Dan Chasse said Monday.

Competition for ice time at the Colisee has meant the 600-odd kids on youth hockey teams have had to travel all over central Maine for practices, Chasse said.

Firland sees youth hockey as an essential part of its business plan, Cain said. The company plans to formalize the relationship between the Colisee and the league once the sale is final.

There’s been a tremendous amount of growth in L-A’s youth hockey numbers recently, Cain said. “I think that the need (for ice time) is so great, the youth hockey organization has just done a fantastic job in terms of developing entry-level participants, and it’s the type of structure that we haven’t seen that level of growth in, in other markets,” he said.

Red ink

Firland manages rinks in Louisiana, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania. The fact that the family wants to buy a building that’s been running in the red since the city of Lewiston took over is testament to its possibilities, Cain said.

“This one here seems to be the one where we can really effect the most change and a rapid turnaround to (turn) some red ink into some black ink,” he said.

Global Spectrum’s departure is not a result of poor management, City Administrator Bennett said in a Tuesday news release. “I’m sure that if the Colisee were to continue hosting concerts and other entertainment events, they would do a wonderful job of handling that for the venue,” he said.

Whether there will be future concerts or other entertainment events at the Colisee will be up to the new owner, Bennett said. Scheduled events will happen as planned, he said.

For example, the Androscoggin Chamber of Commerce will hold its upcoming Grains and Grapes Festival and the Business to Business Trade show at the Colisee. It would like to continue using the building if that fits into Firland’s plans, President Chip Morrison said.

The city owes $5.7 million for the Colisee and improvements it has made to it. The city has subsidized the Colisee’s operation since it took it over in 2004. The subsidy for fiscal year 2009 is estimated at $488,000.

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