July 9, 2010

Pirates poll fans with site options

Managing owner Brian Petrovek says the team seeks input as it plans for the future of the franchise.

By Paul Betit pbetit@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND - The Portland Pirates are asking their fans where they would like to go to watch the team play in the future.

"Where would you like to see the Pirates play?" asked the one-question survey posted Thursday afternoon on the team's website and sent to fans' e-mail accounts.

Respondents are asked to check one of four answers: in Downtown Portland, off the Maine Turnpike in Portland or Westbrook, off the Maine Turnpike in Saco, or no preference.

"We just wanted to get a sense of where people's heads were at without making it any more complicated," said Brian Petrovek, the Pirates' managing owner.

The poll comes less than four months after the team agreed to a two-year extension of its lease to play at the Cumberland County Civic Center, its home for the past 16 years.

Petrovek said there was nothing provocative in running the poll now.

"There's no hidden agenda here," he said. "It's a first step in a series of steps we want to take to find out the feelings of our constituencies."

Neal Pratt, a Portland attorney who serves as chairman of the civic center's board of trustees, seemed perplexed about the survey's timing.

"I don't know what the objective of the poll is," Pratt said. "In my discussions with (Petrovek), he has been unequivocal that the Pirates' first and primary objective is to assist in the renovation effort in the civic center."

In May, a special task force told the trustees renovations must be made to the 33-year-old structure to retain its lineup of events, including games played by the Pirates, the facility's flagship tenant.

The seven-member panel, which includes Petrovek, planned to deliver a formal recommendation to the trustees within a few months.

Voters could be asked to approve a bond in 2011 to pay for the work.

Last month, Westbrook developer Jason Snyder proposed to build an 8,000-seat arena to house the Pirates near the turnpike in Portland or Westbrook. The building would be built in conjunction with his proposed Stroudwater Place, a $300 million retail and commercial center in Westbrook.

There previously was a proposal to build a hockey arena for the Pirates on Lund Road in Saco, on property adjacent to the MHG Ice Centre, which houses operations of the Portland Junior Pirates.

"We're in this window of evaluating our options moving beyond this two-year lease and (are) committed to the region," Petrovek said.

In its report, the task force said a renovated civic center should serve as a temporary solution. It said a new arena will have to built, likely within the next 15 years.

"As we continue conversations with the civic center about the renovations and with folks in Westbrook and Portland and Saco, we just wanted to take a step back and make sure we were hearing from our fans," Petrovek said. "It's a gut check."

Petrovek expected the survey period to end at the close of business today.

Within an hour after the poll was posted Thursday, more than 400 respondents had filled out the survey.

Petrovek doubted the team would share the results of the poll.

"It's a first step in a series of steps we want to take to find out the feelings of our constituencies," he said. "This information by itself won't decide the location of the team in the future."

Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at:

pbetit@pressherald.com

 

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