September 12, 2013

Civic center, Pirates engage in all-day negotiations

The two sides meet for a settlement hearing to see if they can reach an agreement without going through a trial.

By Edward D. Murphy
Staff Writer

PORTLAND – Lawyers for the Cumberland County Civic Center and the Portland Pirates hockey team met all day Wednesday, but there was no word on whether they settled a lease dispute that has moved into court.

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Brian Petrovek

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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Neal Pratt, chairman of the Cumberland County Civic Center Trustees

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

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The two groups of lawyers were in Cumberland County Business Court for a settlement conference on the Pirates lawsuit, which seeks to enforce an April agreement on most, but not all, of the terms of a five-year lease.

Civic center officials say there is no agreement and that the trustees only announced deals on some key points in April and called for further negotiations on the rest.

They also said the April agreement was never signed and point out that the two sides continued to trade lease proposals throughout the summer, right up until the arena's trustees sent a final offer the last week of August.

A settlement conference is a hearing, similar to mediation, which is used to try to find an agreement before trial. Because it is like mediation and there are limits on the ability to use statements made in the conference in a trial, it is conducted behind closed doors.

In the morning, the two sides were mostly separate, with civic center board chairman Neal Pratt and the arena's lawyers primarily in Superior Court Justice Thomas Humphrey's courtroom.

The Pirates' legal team and managing owner Brian Petrovek were out of sight most of the morning, either meeting separately or with Humphrey.

In the afternoon, the courtroom was empty and both sides were reportedly meeting with Humphrey. The two sides left court about 5:30 p.m. without commenting.

Calls to Pratt, Petrovek and the lead lawyers for each side were not returned Wednesday.

The April agreement indicated that both sides had reached a deal on many of the key terms of the lease. But disputes remained over how much of the concession revenue should go to the Pirates and whether the team should share in "sub-naming rights" for parts of the arena, such as the rink and new luxury suites.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

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