PORTLAND – Hockey fans will have to wait at least until Jan. 17 to see the Portland Pirates play in the renovated Cumberland County Civic Center.
According to the schedule issued by the American Hockey League on Thursday, the Pirates will play the Springfield Falcons in their first game at the Civic Center more than three months after their season opener.
The news release issued by the Pirates included a disclaimer saying game dates in Portland “are tentative at this time and await clearance and approval from the Civic Center due to renovation schedule.”
Work on the $33 million renovation of the 35-year-old facility began last spring and is scheduled to be completed in late December.
Originally, the Pirates were planning to play their first 12 home games at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston, but the schedule now calls for the Pirates to play the first 13 of their 38 home games in that arena.
That change delays the tentative return of the team to its home ice by another week.
“It just gives us and (the Civic Center) another week of breathing room around the deadlines that are being projected for reoccupancy,” said Brian Petrovek, managing owner/CEO of the Pirates.
The schedule calls for the Pirates to play six games at the Civic Center in January.
“It is our expectation that we do not foresee changing our opening-night game (at the Civic Center),” Petrovek said, “but there could be unforeseen circumstances around which games get impacted by the completion of the work.”
Cianbro, the main contractor for the renovation project, has set Dec. 19 as the target date for completion.
“If all goes perfectly clean between now and the end of the project, it is conceivable we could be done before Christmas,” said Neal Pratt, chairman of the Civic Center’s board of trustees. “We know it is in everybody’s interest to get this done as soon as possible, but we’re going to get it done right.”
After the renovation work is complete, time will be needed to reinstall the building’s operating systems and to put in the ice.
Last season, the Pirates won five of the six games they played in Lewiston.
“The nice thing is the fans have come out and really supported us well,” Coach Ray Edwards said. “If we have to be somewhere (else), it’s nice to be at a place that really supports us.”
The Pirates are not scheduled to hold any practices in Lewiston.
“We’ll just go up there and play games,” Edwards said. “It will be (like) a road game. We’ll bus up there as a team. It will be like going to Manchester (N.H.) except that it is closer.”
Most of the team’s practice sessions will be at the MHG Center in Saco.
“We will come to our performance venue on game day like an NHL team does,” Petrovek said. “When the game’s over, the next day (the players) come to work in Saco, whether it’s a home game or away game.”
“From the standpoint of development, we think it’s a great situation (in Saco),” Edwards said. “They’re building our own locker room and training room and lounge area specifically for our guys, our team.”
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: