March 23, 2010

Trustees OK deal to keep Pirates in Portland

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

Updated at 9:17 a.m.

PORTLAND – The Cumberland County Civic Center trustees have unanimously approved a new lease deal with the Pirates. A news conference is expected shortly; check back for updated details.

12:01 A.M.

PORTLAND - The Portland Pirates are expected to remain in the city, with the Cumberland County Civic Center's trustees set to vote on the terms of a new lease agreement today.

Neither side was willing to say Tuesday that a tentative agreement was in place, but the owner of the hockey team said there was "an understanding," and the chairman of the trustees said the board was ready to take up "a set of terms."

Asked if he plans to announce a new lease agreement today, Pirates managing owner and CEO Brian Petrovek said, "That is our expectation."

"There will be a presentation for final discussion and approval of some set of terms," said Neal Pratt, chairman of the civic center's board.

Neither Petrovek nor Pratt would offer details of the terms they have negotiated.

If a deal is approved, it will cap a tumultuous couple of weeks in which the Pirates have been courted by Albany, N.Y., and Petrovek has proposed a wide-ranging revision of the team's financial relationship with the civic center.

The trustees rejected that proposal and counter-offered with some changes to the current lease, which ends April 30. Pratt and Petrovek apparently reached a deal Monday.

On Monday afternoon, the general manager of the Times Union Center in Albany announced that the arena had broken off talks with the Pirates and turned its attention to another American Hockey League team, likely the Lowell (Mass.) Devils. Albany's current team will move to Charlotte, N.C., after this season.

Pratt said he and Petrovek had concluded their talks before he learned of Albany's announcement, so it's likely that officials there broke off talks only after Petrovek told them that a new lease in Portland was expected.

Pratt said he and the board weren't distracted by the possibility of the Pirates leaving for Albany, which is closer to the team's National Hockey League affiliate, the Buffalo Sabres.

"I always entertained the possibility that Albany might throw an offer out there that (the Pirates) might not refuse," he said. "(But) we were not leveraged at all by Albany. It was just noise in the background."

Petrovek said he doesn't think fans will be upset with the team over its consideration of a move.

"I don't think there's any long-term damage," Petrovek said. He said he is disappointed that he has been unable to move ahead with season ticket sales and sponsorship deals for 2010-11, and that the team had the distraction of lease negotiations with the AHL's regular season nearing its finish.

"It's something we all want to avoid and why teams don't want to get into lame-duck seasons" with their arena leases, Petrovek said.

"I feel good about what our situation is in this marketplace today," he said.

 

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

 

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