PORTLAND — Trustees of the Cumberland County Civic Center say they’ll move quickly to start work on the $33 million renovation that voters approved in Tuesday’s referendum.

Neal Pratt, chairman of the civic center’s board, said the panel hopes to name a building committee and possibly hire an architect next week. He said the intent is for plans to be advanced enough for work in the arena’s seating “bowl” to begin next summer.

That’s a slow time for the civic center, Pratt noted, because the facility’s principal tenant, the Portland Pirates hockey club, is in its off-season, there are no ice shows, and touring musical acts tend to hold their concerts outside in the summer.

He also said the civic center has some discretion in picking contractors and subcontractors, which will give trustees an opportunity to steer work to firms from Cumberland County, or at least Maine.

“We’re prepared to exercise that discretion,” Pratt said Wednesday. “It’s a significant point in favor of a local company.”

Residents gave the project solid backing: With almost all of the ballots counted, 45,887 county voters, or 58 percent, supported borrowing money to pay for upgrades to the 34-year-old arena. That’s a higher margin of victory than some observers expected.

Daniel Steele, owner of Brian Boru, a pub just a block away, said his business jumps on nights when there’s an arena event. But he was concerned leading up to the election that voters in towns outside of Greater Portland didn’t understand how the civic center benefits the local economy.

“I’m glad we didn’t miss another opportunity in Portland, and in really tough times, things like the civic center can make a huge difference,” he said.

The renovation will create a new premium seating area, improve the concession stands, carve out space for a fan lounge, upgrade the box office and make a number of backstage improvements, such as a bigger loading dock and improved dressing rooms.

Supporters of the bond said that without those upgrades, fewer acts would come to the civic center, depriving it of revenue and possibly forcing taxpayers to start kicking in an operating subsidy to a facility that has been largely self-supporting on a day-to-day basis.

Janis Beitzer, head of Portland’s Downtown District, said a failure to fix the civic center could have started “a real downward spiral” for businesses around the arena.

“You could have seen some of the businesses closing as you saw that building go dark,” she said. “We finally are able to let our breath out. The prospect of no Portland Pirates playing (hockey in the arena) and the continuing deterioration of the building was just a specter over everybody.”

Pratt, the center’s board chairman, said the opposition to the bond in outlying communities was not as strong as he had feared.

The vote in favor of the project was significant in communities closest to the civic center. Portland voters, for instance, favored it two-to-one, providing a margin of more than 5,000 votes. South Portland, Scarborough, Cape Elizabeth and Falmouth also delivered solid majorities in favor.

Opposition surfaced in outlying communities, but those smaller towns couldn’t deliver anywhere near the number of votes as the city and its suburbs. Bridgton, for instance, opposed the bond by roughly the same ratio as Portland voters supported it, but that provided a difference of only 465 votes.

The margin was narrower in other towns. In Windham, for instance, a majority rejected the bond proposal, but the margin was only 122 votes out of nearly 4,500 cast.

“It’s a resounding victory for Cumberland County,” Pratt said. “Kudos to the voters for doing their homework.”

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: [email protected]