September 30, 2013

Our View: Pirates, Civic Center breakup real this time

For the sake of local businesses, let's hope that the Civic Center trustees are right.

For the last few weeks, the Cumberland County Civic Center Board of Trustees and their anchor tenant looked to be engaged in a battle of brinksmanship, teetering on the edge of a parting of the ways.

click image to enlarge

Downtown businesses, like Rivalries Sports Pub, have grown accustomed to serving hockey fans that were drawn to Portland to see the Piirates play during winter, a typically slow time of year.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

Now they have gone over the edge. With neither party willing to budge over sharing the revenue from food sales, the no-longer-Portland Pirates will be playing their home games in Lewiston. The trustees say they are ready to move on.

Let's hope they know what they are doing.

The relationship between the team and the facility has often been contentious, even though they were able to sing from the same hymnal during the campaign to approve a $34 million renovation of the Civic Center in 2011. Now the renovated center will be looking for concerts and other forms of entertainment to make up for the revenue lost by 38 pro hockey home games.

The Civic Center may be able to make more from the events that get scheduled on some of what were to be hockey home games, but it's not likely to have the same impact on local bars and restaurants that catered to the before and after hockey game crowd, and now are left wondering what the long cold nights of winter might look like this year.

Even though there had been tensions in the past -- the Pirates were once of the verge of moving to Albany, NY -- this breakup came as a surprise to the community.

In April, the two sides had agreed on the outline of a deal in which the team and building would split all concession income. That plan was disrupted when the state interceded to say that only the facility's owner could get the proceeds of liquor sales.

The Civic Center offered the Pirates and the team's managing owner Brian Petrovek 65 percent of the food sales to make up for the loss of their share of the beer proceeds. Petrovek said that was not enough and neither side budged. Now the Pirates will play in Lewiston.

The trustees are looking to fill the dates, maybe even finding another hockey team that would be willing to play in a newer and bigger building in a more populated market than the Lewiston Colisee, which the Pirates will now call home.

The trustees seem confident that the county will not miss the team. Downtown restaurant and bar owners are not so sure.

Petrovek still has a lawsuit designed to force the Civic Center back to the table, but it looks now like the game is over and the Pirates have left the building.


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