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 2)

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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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Another issue involved "sub-naming rights" for parts of the arena, such as the ice rink and new luxury suites. Petrovek said an agreement to split "above-the-ice" advertising revenue meant he would share in that money, but the civic center said it had retained all naming-rights profits.

Pratt said there were other issues, but while the civic center sought only to break even on the games, the Pirates wanted more.

"The demands that the Pirates were making these last few months were too rich" and would have amounted to a subsidy of the team by the county's taxpayers, he said.

LEASE NEGOTIATIONS LED TO DISPUTE

After the two sides traded proposals this summer, the trustees sent Petrovek a final offer in late August, giving him 48 hours to sign the lease. He refused, and the next week sued the trustees, asking a judge to enforce the terms of the agreement reached in April.

Pratt said that resolution, passed by the trustees, noted that further negotiations were needed. He also said that about an hour after that trustees meeting, he ran into Petrovek, who told him the Pirates would move ahead with selling season tickets for games at the civic center.

Pratt said he warned Petrovek that the deal wasn't complete and any decisions the Pirates made would be at the team's own risk.

After Petrovek filed the lawsuit this month, a judge called both sides into a settlement conference to seek a solution without a court fight. The only thing both sides agreed on was that the effort failed, and Petrovek moved quickly to announce the shift to Lewiston.

PIRATES MOVE NOT ISSUE FOR AHL

The AHL and the Phoenix Coyotes, the Pirates' parent team in the National Hockey League, took a mostly hands-off approach to the move.

Although the Coyotes had hinted that they preferred Portland -- and largely insisted on having the Pirates play at the civic center during their brief playoff run last season -- a team spokesman said Thursday that it will "move on" with the shift to Lewiston.

"Clearly, it is a disruption for us," said Brad Treliving, the Coyotes' assistant general manager. "But it's the hand we're dealt and we're going to do the best we can with it."

Dave Anderson, commissioner of the AHL, said the league has no requirements about where teams play, other than making sure the rink has adequate quality and safety for games.

"It honestly doesn't come as a surprise," Anderson said of the move. He noted that under league rules, the Pirates have a right to play anywhere within 50 miles of Portland.

Fans in Lewiston, a traditional hockey city, said they look forward to watching hockey one step below the NHL level.

"This community, most of it, is 100 percent hockey over anything else in sports," said Norm Dubois, 74, who lives in neighboring Auburn. "People will embrace it."

As for disappointed fans who live in Portland, Cain said his team was forced into making a move.

"I feel bad for the fans in Portland," he said, "but the trustees have drawn that line. I didn't."

Petrovek said that to boost attendance, the team will keep ticket prices low, including some $10 tickets for fans who buy in advance.

-- Staff Writer Dennis Hoey contributed to this report.

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

emurphy@pressherald.com

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

mlowe@pressherald.com

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Today's poll: Pirates in Lewiston

Will you travel to Lewiston to see the Pirates play?

Yes

No

View Results