August 28, 2013

Civic Center OKs lease with Pirates

But the managing owner of the team hasn't told the board whether he will agree to sign the agreement.

By Edward D. Murphy emurphy@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — The Cumberland County Civic Center's trustees have approved a new lease with the arena's main tenant, the Portland Pirates, four months after announcing a five-year deal.

Now, the board needs to hear whether the American Hockey League team still wants a lease.

Trustees of the Civic Center, which is undergoing a $34 million renovation, and the team announced in April that they had agreed on the terms of a five-year lease.

That agreement focused on the broad terms of the deal, said Neal Pratt, chairman of the trustees, such as the nightly rent, the team's share of concession sales and the elimination of rebates when the team fails to meet attendance benchmarks.

Pratt said the two sides have been negotiating the details and legal language for more than four months, and the proposal endorsed by the board Tuesday represents its final offer.

The proposal has been sent to Brian Petrovek, the managing owner of the team, with the request that he sign it within a few days.

Pratt said Petrovek hasn't told the board whether he will agree to the lease.

Petrovek did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday afternoon.

Pratt said he did not consider the negotiations contentious, and said they centered mostly on cost and revenue projections.

Because the Civic Center is being rebuilt, with amenities such as a refurbished concession area and some suites in the arena, Pratt said, neither side can look at historical figures for fans' spending and game costs so the numbers must be estimates.

Pratt said the Civic Center needs to know if the Pirates will play in the arena when it reopens.

The renovations are expected to be complete in mid-January.

If there's no deal, Pratt said, the Civic Center will start looking for acts to book on the nights that the Pirates have been scheduled to play.

The 2013-14 schedule calls for the Pirates to play their home games in Lewiston until mid-January.

The Civic Center board and Pirates management have had a rocky relationship over the last few years.

A couple of years ago, the Pirates considered leaving for Albany, N.Y., before signing a contract extension in Portland.

The negotiations for a new deal took months, with each side accusing the other of stalling.

The two sides also traded public accusations over who was to blame for a delay in moving on to the final phase of the renovation.

That delay pushed back the completion of the project from October to January and forced the Pirates to move early-season home games to the Colisee in Lewiston.

The lease announced in April calls for the Pirates, for the first time, to get a share of concession sales.

The team would get 57.5 percent of food and drink sales.

The rent for games would be cut from $2,500 per game to $1,000.

But attendance rebates would end and the Pirates would have to pay part of the cost of arena workers for the games.

 

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at emurphy@pressherald.com

 

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