An argument can be made – and there is no shortage of people making it these days – that county government should not be in the business of operating an entertainment venue. Maybe, maybe not.

But that’s not the issue on the table at the moment. The fact is, Cumberland County does operate an entertainment venue, the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland, and it is in desperate need of upgrading and renovation. County residents will be asked Tuesday to approve $33 million in bonds to modernize the 34-year-old facility, and it is imperative that voters agree to this very important investment that will allow the civic center to remain competitive and continue to serve the county and the region well into the future.

We urge voters to authorize the civic center improvements by voting yes on the bond proposal.

There is no disputing the benefits of the civic center. Start with the Portland Pirates hockey team, one of the area’s most popular attractions and the center’s anchor tenant. The proposed renovations are crucial to keeping the venue up to date as the Pirates’ home – and keeping the Pirates in Cumberland County, where they belong.

Beyond hockey, the facility plays host to crowd-pleasing – and crowd-drawing – shows of every type, from high-profile music acts to family-friendly extravaganzas such as Disney on Ice. The civic center even provides a venue for community-oriented events such as graduations and high school basketball games.

For more than three decades, this facility has been serving the area in the best tradition of a public entertainment facility and, more often than not, paying its own way. The center has operated in the black in six of the past seven years, in fact, a remarkable record for a publicly owned venue functioning in a challenging economy and a competitive environment.

The renovations will make the civic center even more successful, providing upgrades to seating, concessions, restrooms, dressing rooms and mechanical facilities. The exterior of the building will be refurbished to make it more inviting, and expansion of concourse areas will make access to seating, concessions and restrooms more comfortable and convenient for all those who attend events.

The fact is, the Cumberland County Civic Center has become part of the social and cultural fabric of the area. Mainers, out-of-staters and Canadians travel to Portland to attend events and spend money inside and outside the civic center. Stores and restaurants in Portland and neighboring communities benefit before and after events throughout the year.

Anyone who believes that rejecting these renovations would be fiscally responsible is sadly mistaken. The cost of letting a facility like the civic center deteriorate could be devastating. Never mind the lost business in and around the venue; think about the eventual direct and indirect cost of having a dilapidated white elephant of this magnitude blighting the area and dragging down property values for miles around. The cost of a no vote on this $33 million bond question could be incalculable.

More directly, saying no to these renovations also says no to 175 construction jobs. And don’t forget that the civic center already supports more than 400 full- and part-time jobs for Cumberland County residents – and that number can be expected to grow as the renovated facility expands its appeal and attracts more events.

As communities in Maine and elsewhere are leaving no stone unturned in search of economic development, the civic center benefits the county to the tune of $15 million to $20 million each year. Renovating the facility could increase that number; not renovating will certainly decrease it.

The arguments against these bonds all add up to a shortsighted refusal to invest in the future – and such shortsightedness is always self-defeating. A modern, thriving civic center will benefit all the people of Cumberland County by ensuring the continued success of a popular magnet for local residents and visitors alike.

A crumbling, neglected civic center would be a long-term burden to taxpayers and a distressing symbol of economic decline.

The choice for voters Tuesday is obvious: Vote yes for the Cumberland County Civic Center bonds.