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January 9, 2013

Pirates' success may delay arena job

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

PORTLAND - Portland Pirates fans surely are hoping their team will keep playing well and make the American Hockey League playoffs, but some people working on the renovation of the Cumberland County Civic Center may be hoping for an earlier end to the season.

The second, and most extensive, phase of the $33 million renovation is due to begin in the third week of April, when the Pirates finish their regular season.

Playoff games might delay the work, which will include building luxury boxes, rebuilding the concession area, rebuilding entrances and adding club seats.

If they reach the Calder Cup finals, the Pirates might play until mid-June.

"For the record, we all want the Pirates to go as far in the playoffs as they possibly can," said Neal Pratt, chairman of the civic center's board of trustees.

The construction schedule and costs would be affected, however.

As of now the playoffs look like a good bet: Portland is in first place in the Eastern Conference's Atlantic Division.

The winners of the conference's three five-team divisions make the playoffs, as do the next five teams with the best records.

Pratt said the first phase of the renovation, which revolves around rebuilding the Free Street entrance to the civic center, is on schedule and likely will be finished in March.

A delay in starting the second phase could add to the project's cost and threaten the start of the 2013-14 hockey season in the fall, he said.

The project is forecast to be done in early October, Pratt said, a couple of weeks before the Pirates begin their next season.

If the second phase is delayed, the Pirates might have to do what they did this year: shift some games to the smaller Colisee in Lewiston.

Brian Petrovek, the Pirates' managing owner and chief executive officer, said he and Pratt have exchanged a few "volleys" over postseason plans, and one idea that has come up is moving some home playoff games to Lewiston.

Petrovek said his team's lease on the civic center calls for the Pirates to host playoff games there.

And particularly in later playoff rounds, Petrovek would rather have his team playing in front of 7,000 rabid fans in Portland than the 3,800 who could fit into the Colisee.

Season-ticket holders, like Andrew Hart of South Portland, would likely drive to Lewiston to watch the Pirates in the playoffs.

But Hart said that something would be lost by taking the Pirates out of Portland.

"When I think the Portland Pirates, I think the civic center and the games there," said Hart, who has been a fan for eight years.

"It's something that I don't see the fans of Lewiston coming out for like the fans of Portland do.

"They're a part of the Portland community."

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

emurphy@pressherald.com





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