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Portland Pirates Pack For Lewiston After Civic Center Talks Fail
09/26/2013   Reported By: Patty B. Wight

The Portland Pirates are headed north for this season, at least. The hockey team will play all home games at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston, after a dispute with the Cumberland County Civic Center couldn't be resolved. Lewiston city officials couldn't be happier, it's disappointing news for the city of Portland.

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Brian Petrovek and Ron CainLewiston is about 40 miles from Portland, but as far as Pirates owner Brian Petrovek is concerned, it's a world apart.

"We're with a group of people who want to have us here," Petrovek said. "There's a deep and rich history of hockey in this marketplace and in this building. And we feel welcomed and we appreciate that."

Petrovek's decision to play all home games in Lewiston this season comes after the Portland Pirates filed suit against the Cumberland County Civic Center over a lease agreement that was announced in April. The two parties disagreed about certain details, including whether the lease was final, and what percentage of concession and advertising sales the Pirates were entitled to receive a judge ordered the two sides to attempt mediation, but those efforts, according to Petrovek, failed.

"All we have asked for during this ill-timed protracted 5-month period is that the Civic Center honor the deal terms which both parties agreed to, and which were approved by the Civic Center Board of Trustees on April 17th of this year," he said.

"The demands the Pirates were making were financially too rich for the taxpayers, and in our view, would have required financial subsidy by the taxpayers for the team's profits," said Neal Pratt, Board Chairman for the Cumberland County Civic Center.

Pratt said there's no love lost between the Civic Center and the Pirates. Financially, he said, hosting the hockey games were a break-even proposition, and the Civic Center isn't looking back.

"We are continuously exploring opportunities for events and concerts, and we are also exploring the opportunity aggressively now, for another sports tenant," he said.

But City of Portland spokesperson Nicole Clegg said its disappointing news.

"It's clear that professional sports provide an economic benefit to the community and local businesses, Porltand Sea Dogs, the Red Claws,and the Pirates have all not only been a benefit to whatever the venue was, but the surrounding community," Clegg said.

But what is a loss for one city, is a boon for another.

"I'm ecstatic," exclaimed Lewiston Mayor Robert MacDonald. "I think that when people start coming up here and seeing what we have and some of the the amenities that we offer, I think there's a good chance that some might start thinking about relocating up here from Portland, which, we would love to have that."

Petrovek said his door is open to the Civic Center and he's still pursuing litigation to retain the team's rights in the Portland-based arena. He's even retaining the "Portland" part of the team's name. But Lewiston is the Pirates' home this season and possibly into the future.

"If this thing is a success, there's no reason to believe that this team can't be yours for the longhaul," Petrovek said. "So we've got some work to do, both of us, to make sure that's a possibility."

The Lewiston Colisee is about half the size of the Civic Center, and Petrovek said he's lowering ticket prices to garner community support. The average price will be around ten dollars, and tickets for the season go on sale Monday.

Photo by Patty Wight.


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