PORTLAND – Food and drink sales at the Brian Boru pub can increase 25 percent to 30 percent on nights when there’s a major event at the nearby Cumberland County Civic Center.

“It’s the type of added income that can make the difference between surviving and not surviving,” said Daniel Steele, the pub’s part-owner.

Steele is among a group of businesspeople supporting a $33 million proposal to renovate the Civic Center, a complex the business community says helps sustain the downtown and boosts the regional economy.

“If (there is) a 7 o’clock show, I have a line out my door waiting for tables,” said Peter Burke, general manager at Binga’s Stadium Smokehouse & Sports Bar, across Free Street from the arena. “Pretty much anytime they open their doors, it impacts our business in a positive way.”

In August, county commissioners voted to put a proposal on the Nov. 8 ballot for a $33 million bond to renovate the Civic Center.

If approved by voters countywide, the bond will fund improvements that include updates to the facade, bathrooms, concourses, locker and dressing rooms and the lobby. There also will be 62 percent more concession space, 500 new club seats, additional handicapped-accessible seats and improvements to the loading dock.

Opened in 1977, the 6,726-seat Civic Center is home to the Portland Pirates hockey team. It hosts 130 to 150 events annually, including conventions, graduations and performances like Disney on Ice and the American Idol tour. The Civic Center also hosts concerts by major artists. Kenny Chesney performed there in April.

Though the renovation faces opposition from some voters, particularly those who live outside the city, it has support from much of the business community downtown.

Steven DiMillo said business at DiMillo’s Floating Restaurant off Commercial Street often increases 25 percent on nights when the Civic Center has an event. And he said about a quarter of his 150 employees live outside Portland.

John Menario, a former Civic Center trustee and a former Portland city manager, said the Civic Center attracts 500,000 people a year, injecting $12 million to $15 million into the local economy. Taxicab and bus companies, restaurants, hotels, bars and coffee shops are among the beneficiaries.

Menario recently launched Citizens for a Modern Civic Center, a political action committee formed to increase public support for the renovations. Menario said the group has raised about $65,000, most of it from individuals, and will soon start a media campaign that will include television and radio advertisements.

On Thursday, Portland’s Downtown District, a group that promotes economic activity downtown, announced its support for the renovation.

Executive Director Janis Beitzer said the upgrades would enable the Civic Center to attract more and better acts, including monster truck rallies.

She called the Civic Center a cultural and economic asset that benefits businesses throughout Greater Portland and their employees.

“The quality of life for everybody within the county is enhanced by having a modern facility,” Beitzer said.

Portland’s Downtown District will host an information session Monday at the Civic Center, where business owners can learn about the plans.

The renovations also have the support of the Greater Portland Convention & Visitors Bureau.

President and CEO Barbara Whitten said, “I think of the Civic Center as the heart of our community, pumping blood into the region.”

John Reny, president of Renys department stores, said the Civic Center was one reason his company opened a store a short distance away on Congress Street earlier this year.

“You have to look at the big picture,” Reny said. “It’s a big draw. It brings people into town.”

Staff Writer Jonathan Hemmerdinger can be reached at 791-6316 or at:

[email protected]