September 26, 2013

Portland Pirates may play home games in Lewiston

Amid deadlocked negations with the Cumberland County Civic Center, the hockey team will hold a Thursday news conference at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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

PORTLAND — The Cumberland County Civic Center and the Portland Pirates continued to jockey for position Wednesday, even as speculation built that the minor league hockey franchise would be playing its home games away.

20130417_CCCCPirates
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Portland Pirates owner Brian Petrovek, above, and Ron Cain will host a news conference at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston at 2 p.m. Thursday to discuss the Pirates immediate future.

Gordon Chibroski

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The Cumber;and County Civic Center is currently undergoing a $33 million renovation. But the Pirates and the civic center are locked in bitter negotiations over a new lease, which could lead to the Pirates playing their home games in Lewiston.

John Patriquin / Staff Photographer

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Shortly after 5 p.m., the Pirates announced that Brian Petrovek and Ron Cain, owners of the franchise, would be holding a news conference at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston at 2 p.m. Thursday.

"I don't imagine they would have a press conference at my rink to announce that they are playing in Portland," said Mike Cain, operations manager for the 3,700-seat Colisee.

But Mike Cain isn't crowing yet.

"We're still 24 hours away," he said, conceding that there may still be time for the civic center and Pirates to reach a deal. "We definitely have 13 games, and I'm hoping for 38."

The Pirates are scheduled to play their first home game at the Colisee on Oct. 12. Their stated plans are to return to Portland on Jan. 17 once renovations there are complete.

But the Pirates -- whose letterhead banner reads: "My Town My Team" -- and the Cumberland County Civic Center are locked in bitter negotiations over a new lease.

Earlier this month, the Pirates sued the civic center, asking a judge to enforce the terms of a five-year lease announced in April. The board of trustees of the civic center, however, said the announcement noted that final negotiations were still needed on some points and no lease was ever signed.

Negotiations continued over the summer, but disagreements couldn't be bridged over how to divide revenues from concessions and naming rights for portions of the arena.

After the lawsuit was filed, Superior Court Justice Thomas Humphrey called both sides into the Cumberland County Business Court for a settlement conference, a mediation step intended to get litigants to reach an agreement rather than move to trial. Under the rules of a settlement conference, discussions are off the record and Humphrey ordered both sides not to discuss the situation publicly.

Petrovek, the managing owner of the Pirates, said Wednesday he was expecting the civic center board to make the next move, but hadn't heard anything by late afternoon. He said the Pirates will hold a news conference Thursday at the Colisee in Lewiston to discuss the team's home games next year.

Mike Cain said hosting the Pirates' home games would be a major boost for the Colisee.

"It would be a huge economic impact on the whole community. It would be fantastic," he said.

Mike Cain said the Colisee hasn't participated in discussions with the civic center but the prospect was raised that the Pirates might play in Lewiston.

"They did ask us previously if we did have dates available or could make dates available," Cain said.

Lewiston has been without the Lewiston Maniacs -- and a major tenant for the Colisee -- since the team disbanded in 2011.

"We have a lot of hard-core hockey fans in this area who have missed the hockey and follow the Pirates," Mike Cain said.

Earlier Wednesday, the civic center and Pirates were apparently continuing to work toward resolution of the dispute but would not say if they were making progress.

Under a judge's order to say nothing publicly, the civic center's board of trustees spent several hours Wednesday huddled privately with their lawyer, while the leader of the other side, the managing owner of the Portland Pirates hockey team, said he was waiting to hear from the board.

(Continued on page 2)

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