UPDATED 10:30 P.M.

The $33 million bond to renovate the Cumberland County Civic Center continued to lead in early returns.

With 16 percent of the vote in, voters were backing the bond by a 56 percent to 44 percent vote.

The vote is expected to break along geographic lines and the early returns backed that up. Voters nearest Portland, where the arena is located, are expected to support the bond more than those in towns further away from the city.

For instance, voters in Portland favored the bond by a 67-33 percent margin. But in Bridgton, the vote was nearly the opposite, with 65 percent opposing the bond and 35 percent in favor.

———————-

Voters were backing a $33 million bond to renovate the Cumberland County Civic Center in early returns Tuesday.

With nine of 12 precincts counted in Portland, voters were in favor of issuing the bond by a ratio of 2 to 1. That’s not surprising, given that the arena is in downtown Portland.

Voters in Cumberland also supported the renovation bond, with 59 percent backing it and 40 percent opposed.

The vote is expected to break along geographic lines, with voters in towns closer to Portland backing the bond. Some voters in towns farther away from Portland argue that they don’t go to the arena to see shows or hockey games as often, and officials in Harrison and Bridgton approved open letters asking voters to oppose the bond.

In the vote on the original bond to pay for construction of the center in 1972, 13 towns supported it and 13 were opposed. The overall vote, however, was 50,722, or 60 percent, in favor of the bond and 33,538, or 40 percent, against.

Supporters of the bond have argued that without the renovation plan, the Civic Center – which opened in 1977 – will lose out on more shows because the facility will be inadequate. They said that would end up costing taxpayers, who will need to subsidize the facility to keep it open.

The renovation plan calls for new premium seating areas, an enlarged lobby, wider concourses, improved concessions and an upgraded box office. There are also plans for improved “back-of-house” facilities, including a larger loading dock that would be able to handle more elaborate show sets, and improved dressing rooms.

The supporters formed a political action committee, called Citizens for a Modern Civic Center, that ran ads promoting the renovation as a way to generate construction jobs, while securing the jobs of those who already work for the arena. The ads also tout the economic impact of the Civic Center, which generates business for downtown Portland restaurants, hotels and shops.

Supporters also argued that the bond would not raise taxes, although that’s because the county earlier this year retired the bond used to pay for the Cumberland County Jail. The money that had been earmarked for payments on that bond would be shifted to the Civic Center bond, if the referendum passes.