PORTLAND — Thousands of Mainers are expected to seek tickets for President Obama’s appearance in Portland later this week.

The White House announced Monday night that Obama will speak Thursday at the Portland Exposition Building. Tickets will be distributed to the public on a first-come, first-served basis in the lobby of the Expo beginning at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

The White House Media Affairs Office said in a statement that Obama will “speak directly to Mainers about how the historic health insurance reform bill he signed into law will end the worst practices of insurance companies, immediately begin to bring down costs for families and businesses, and expand coverage to 32 million Americans who are currently uninsured.”

More than 2,500 people have signed up on the Web site of U.S. Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree to receive information about the president’s visit to Maine. They got an e-mail back Monday night letting them know the details of his visit and how they could get tickets.

“I bet people start lining up (today),” said Pingree’s spokesman, Willy Ritch.

The city-owned facility can seat 3,000 to 4,500 people, said city spokeswoman Nicole Clegg.

It will be Obama’s first visit to Maine since he was elected president in November 2008. He visited Maine a couple of times during his campaign for the Democratic nomination, most recently in February 2008.

This will be the first time that a president has appeared at the Expo, Clegg said.

Doors to the Expo will open at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, the White House said. Pingree said Obama is expected to speak at 3:25 p.m.

Pingree and Maine’s other Democratic congressman, Rep. Mike Michaud, plan to attend.

“The health care reform the president just signed is historic and is going to have some big benefits for seniors, small businesses and working Maine families,” Pingree said in the e-mail that her office sent out Monday. “I think people want to see him and hear him talk about this important reform firsthand.”

 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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