A former owner of the Portland Pirates has offered to step in as a mediator in the contentious lease negotiations between the hockey team and the Cumberland County Civic Center.

Pirates management welcomes the offer, but the lead negotiator for the civic center says no thanks.

Godfrey Wood, co-owner and president during the Pirates’ first three years of operation in the mid-1990s, made the offer early last week.

“I sent them an e-mail because it seemed they could use some outside help,” Wood said Saturday. “I told them I would be available to help facilitate a meeting to try to see if someone independent can help bring people together.”

On Friday, the civic center’s trustees responded to Brain Petrovek’s wide-ranging financial proposal with a simpler plan of their own.

Petrovek, managing owner and CEO of the Pirates, welcomed Wood’s invitation.

“Anything that can bring the parties together to find some common ground sounds attractive to us, under (Wood) or any other third party,” Petrovek said. “In many instances, facilitation and mediation, binding or nonbinding, probably non-binding in this case, can be a good thing.”

But Neal Pratt, a Portland attorney who is the lead negotiator for the trustees, turned down Wood’s offer.

“I have a great deal of respect for Godfrey and appreciate his sincere efforts to help, but at this point we’re in a position where we’ve made a counter-proposal to the Pirates, which I think is fairly simple, and that’s the template for our next discussion,” he said. “We don’t anticipate replowing ground that we’ve already been over.”

Petrovek has proposed restructuring the team’s lease to allow the Pirates to get a share from possible new streams of revenue, such as arena naming rights and upgraded concessions. At the same time, he is considering an offer to move the team to Albany, N.Y.

The trustees of the county-owned arena met Friday and countered with a plan that would build off the five-year lease that ends April 30.

Because they’re looking at developing a plan to renovate the civic center, the civic center’s trustees are reluctant to move quickly on selling naming rights or changing concessions. The upgrade could make naming rights more valuable and could include a new approach to concessions. The trustees would prefer a shorter-term lease.

As chief executive officer of the Greater Portland Chamber, which represents the interests of many of the region’s businesses, Wood said it was his responsibility to try to plug into the negotiation process.

“Because of my role with the chamber, I think I have to be involved in this, because the Portland Pirates have such a positive effect on the business of a lot of our members,” he said. “I’d bring them both together, set some ground rules and then point out what they share that is positive, what divides them at this point and see if there are other ways to get through the division part.

“I know generally what (Petro-vek has) proposed,” Wood said. “Maybe, it’s a big departure (from the current contract). But you need to quantify what the upside is to it to see if it’s a good departure or a bad one.”

Pratt indicated the civic center trustees have a good handle on the pros and cons of what is being proposed by Petrovek.

“The trustees have been dealing with this for many, many years, and I think we’re comfortable where we are in the negotiation process,” he said. “I’ve had discussions with city officials, with state officials, in my due diligence to get a broad perspective from a number of people from different vantage points, and the feedback has been pretty uniform. As much as I appreciate Godfrey’s efforts, I think we need to bring this thing to a close rather than open it up to reconsider issues that have already been fully evaluated.”

No deadline has been set for Petrovek to respond to the trustees’ counterproposal.

“I’m dribbling the ball and trying to figure out where we’re at as an organization,” he said.

 

Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at:

pbetit@pressherald.com