September 27, 2013

Pirates set sail for Lewiston

The team says it will play 40 miles from Portland this season after civic center negotiations fail.

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

and Mike Lowe mlowe@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Today's poll: Pirates in Lewiston

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The Portland Pirates will play their entire AHL schedule this season at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.

John Ewing / Staff Photographer

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LEWISTON ARENA SMALLER, OLDER

The Pirates were supposed to start playing in the upgraded arena in January, after playing home games early in the season at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.

The improvements offered an opportunity for the team to turn its first profit since Petrovek, Ron Cain and Lyman Bullard bought the team in 2000.

The lease proposal called for revenue from sales of higher-priced suites, club and loge seats to go to the team, along with a share of concession sales and a split of much of the advertising income.

With those stakes, the negotiations led to ultimatums, deadlines and the Pirates' filing a lawsuit against the trustees.

Petrovek said the lawsuit will continue, and the team's future will be dictated by its reception in Lewiston, the fate of the lawsuit and whether there's a change in the stance of the trustees.

"We've always left the door open to the Cumberland County Civic Center and that's not going to change," he said Thursday at a news conference at the Colisee. "But as far as this season is concerned, we've just given you a commitment to play in this building, we've given you a commitment to embrace this community."

The 3,737-seat Colisee is about half the size of the civic center and considerably older, dating to 1958. Most famously, the arena -- known at the time as the Central Maine Youth Center -- hosted the 1965 Muhammad Ali-Sonny Liston heavyweight championship fight, in which the "phantom punch" knocked out the favored Liston in the first round.

The arena's majority owner is Cain, who owns 40 percent of the Pirates, offsetting some of the sting of the move to a smaller arena and market and ensuring a cozy landlord-tenant arrangement.

OPPORTUNITIES TO FILL THE VOID

Pratt said the civic center has been approached by other teams when talks with the Pirates have appeared stuck. He said the trustees will pursue those opportunities now.

And he said the civic center will seek to line up concerts and other events for dates left open by the Pirates' departure.

Civic center officials who could provide information on how much income those events bring in couldn't be reached Thursday, but Pratt said they can be lucrative, particularly compared with a goal of breaking even on Pirates games.

This isn't the first time the civic center and the Pirates have fought over lease terms or come close to parting ways. In 2010, the Pirates welcomed courting by Albany, N.Y., which had just lost its AHL team, before finally coming to an agreement with the civic center.

This year's negotiations were complicated by the renovation, which meant the two sides couldn't rely on past revenue and cost figures in their talks.

PARTIES DIVIDED ON REVENUE SPLIT

In April, both sides said they had reached a five-year lease deal with lower rent for the Pirates, who in return would take on a slightly larger share of the labor costs on game days.

The two sides also agreed to share concessions revenues, something Petrovek had eagerly sought in prior leases, and advertising revenue.

The deal fell apart after state liquor officials said the Pirates couldn't get a share of alcohol sales because they don't hold the facility's liquor license. Subsequent proposals by the civic center to offset the loss were insufficient, Petrovek said.

(Continued on page 3)

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Today's poll: Pirates in Lewiston

Will you travel to Lewiston to see the Pirates play?

Yes

No

View Results