PORTLAND — The Board of Trustees for the Cumberland County Civic Center have sent a new lease proposal to the Portland Pirates on Wednesday that could end the nearly year-long saga with the American Hockey League franchise that’s called Portland home for more than two decades.

Neal Pratt, chairman of the trustees, declined to get into specifics of the proposal, which was approved, 6-2, after the board met in executive session for little more than an hour.

Majority owner Ron Cain said he was aware of the vote, but had not seen the proposal and declined to comment until he had time to review it with his counsel.

The trustees gave the Pirates until the end of business on Monday, Feb. 3 to accept the proposal.

In December, the Pirates announced that Cain, at the time a minority owner, had acquired a majority stake in the team. The team also announced it was dropping the lawsuit. Cain and Pratt resumed negotiations shortly after and both spoke last week before the Veterans and Legal Committee in favor of a bill that would allow facilities with a seating capacity of 3,000 or more to share alcohol revenue with a sports tenant.

Civic Center trustees and the Pirates have been embattled in a dispute since late August when the team filed a lawsuit in Cumberland County Superior Court for breach of contract.

Both sides reached a tentative agreement back in April on a new five-year agreement that was hail by both sides as a big achievement.

The lease agreement called for the hockey team to receive 57.5 percent of all food and beverage revenue, including alcohol sales as well as 100 percent of all on-ice revenue and 50 percent of above-ice revenue. The Civic Center would retain 100 percent of all naming rights.

Both sides continued to work toward a finalized agreement; however, it was learned from the state’s liquor enforcement agency that the Pirates could not share in the alcohol revenue because they are not listed on the liquor license.

Talks continued until Aug. 27 when trustees sent the Pirates their best-and-final offer, giving ownership 48 hours to accept the deal or dates originally held for the team would be released for other events.

The team rejected the lease citing that both sides agreed to a deal in principal back on April 17, and filed suit a week later. The trustees sought to have the lawsuit dismissed, but Justice Jon Nivison denied the board’s request and said the lawsuit could move forward.

In December, Maine Senate President Justin Alfond introduced emergency legislation that would allow the Pirates and Civic Center to potentially share alcohol revenue.

Alfond, a Democrat from Portland, introduced an emergency bill that would allow professional sports franchises that do not have their own liquor license to share alcohol revenue with sporting venues that have a seating capacity of 3,000 or more. The Civic Center, Cross Insurance Center, Colisee, Augusta Civic Center and Portland Expo are five facilities that would qualify to share alcohol revenue under the current plan. The new Thompson Point facility in Portland would also qualify.

The bill was approved by the Veterans and Legal Committee on Wednesday and will be sent to the full legislature. If passed, would take effect immediately once signed by Gov. Paul LePage.

If the Pirates do not accept the lease, it’s likely the team will begin to look at relocation options.

Political leaders in Glens Falls, N.Y. have been pursuing a new AHL franchise since the dispute became public back in August as a replacement to the Adirondack Phantoms, who are moving to a brand new arena in Allentown, Penn., for next season.

Petrovek has made two separate trips to upstate New York, but has maintained that Glens Falls was absolutely a last resort.

Glens Falls Mayor Jack Diamond told Poststar.com said that he hope to know within the next two weeks if a potential team would be relocating to Glens Falls. He also noted on Wednesday that the city has not had any discussions with the Pirates and another team is in negotiations to move to Glens Falls for next season.

The Pirates have played this season at the Colisee since coming to an impasse on lease talks. The team was originally scheduled to play 13 games in Lewiston, while the Civic Center underwent a $37 million renovation. The renovation, which began in October 2012, is nearly complete. It’s expected to be ready for the Maine Home Show scheduled for Feb. 15.

Attendance at the Colisee for the Pirates has been dismal this season. The team is currently ranked last out of 30 teams in the AHL in attendance, averaging just 2,497 per game.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: