April 28, 2011

Builders plan event complex

A combined convention center-arena would be part of the privately funded project on Thompson's Point.

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

(Continued from page 1)

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A conceptual drawing shows The Forefront at Thompson's Point complex with a hotel, offices, a music hall and an event center.

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"The fact they have both the wherewithal to do it and the track record to do it is just wonderful for the community," said Godfrey Wood, chief executive officer of the Portland Regional Chamber.

Barbara Whitten, president and CEO of the Greater Portland Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the project would attract larger conventions that have gone to cities with larger facilities. The only comparable site in Portland, she said, is the Holiday Inn by the Bay, which has 33,000 square feet of space, spread over three floors, for meetings.

But the project could be a complication for trustees of the Cumberland County Civic Center, who are expected to ask voters to approve a bond of $25 million to $30 million to renovate and improve the aging arena.

Neal Pratt, chairman of the civic center's board of trustees, said the proposal will require the civic center's backers to point out that the two facilities would differ in function and size, with the downtown arena offering about 9,000 seats.

For example, the civic center is a prime venue for hockey and the home of the Portland Pirates, but the new facility wouldn't have an ice rink.

Fred Forsley, who unveiled a proposal Tuesday for a convention center, hotel and culinary school on his Shipyard Brewing Co. site on the Portland peninsula, said he would prefer a downtown convention center, but will be happy if the new project meets the area's need for a convention center.

"I think that group is a class group," he said.

Forsley said he is suggesting his site as an option for a convention center, but he hasn't lined up a developer or financing for his proposal.

 

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

emurphy@pressherald.com

 

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