September 28, 2013

An ice hockey haven sees Portland's loss as its gain

In Lewiston, ardent fans scoop up season tickets while business owners predict a welcome lift.

By Kelley Bouchard
Staff Writer

LEWISTON – Randy Cyr wasted no time when he learned that the Portland Pirates would play their entire 2013-14 season at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.

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Surrounded by jerseys and other hockey paraphernalia, Tim Blue, manager for Pedro O'Hara's in Lewiston, talks Friday, Sept. 27, 2013 about his excitement and the potential business increase with the Pirates playing their full season in Lewiston.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

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The exterior of Androscoggin Bank Colisse on Friday, Sept. 27, 2013.

Gordon Chibroski

Additional Photos Below

First, he called his girlfriend, who was equally excited. Then, he reserved season tickets for the same four seats they had when the Maineiacs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League played at the arena on Birch Street, until 2011.

Cyr said he's more than willing to pay the $1,520 when tickets go on sale Monday. It's a reasonable fee to watch an American Hockey League team in a city where the sport has been a dominant pastime for nearly a century.

"Hockey's been a big part of our lives," Cyr said during his lunch break Friday. "I played as a kid, but not very well. My son played all the way up and through high school. It's a cultural thing. Everybody's kid plays, pretty much."

Cyr, who grew up in Lewiston and lives in nearby Lisbon Falls, is among the many hockey fans and business owners in Lewiston and surrounding towns who see Portland's loss as their gain.

The Pirates had planned to play 13 home games at the Colisee from October through January, while the $34 million renovation of the Cumberland County Civic Center was completed.

That turned into the whole season when Pirates managing owner Brian Petrovek announced Thursday that the team would pack up and move to Lewiston because of a stalemate in lease negotiations with the civic center's trustees.

Interest in the Lewiston area is strong, but the move is getting mixed reviews from fans in southern Maine, said Christian Ouellette, a Lewiston native who is an account executive for Pirates' tickets sales at the Colisee.

"We've been getting a bunch of calls," Ouellette said. "A lot of people are excited that we're going to be in Lewiston. Some are saying they're disappointed to have to drive to Lewiston or that they won't be doing it."

Some have turned in their tickets, Ouellette said.

Whether the Pirates will make money in Lewiston remains to be seen. Season tickets for the 3,677-seat Colisee are selling for $10 a game, while season tickets for the 6,733-seat Cumberland County Civic Center sold for $16 to $17 a game, Ouellette said.

"We're fully expecting to fill this building, make it a success and keep it in future years," he said.

City Administrator Ed Barrett said the Pirates had a positive economic impact when they played a few games at the Colisee last season.

"Having them here for the whole season is good for the whole community," Barrett said, noting that the team will attract some people who have yet to see the impact of recent economic development efforts in the city.

Tim Blue, manager of Pedro O'Hara's pub and cantina on Main Street, agreed that Pirates games will light the lamp for many Lewiston businesses.

Behind the bar, a Pirates hockey jersey already hangs among several jerseys that represent various local high school, college and professional teams.

"We sponsored the Pirates when they played a few games here last season," Blue said. "It definitely generated some business for us then and it will again this season."

Blue said the Pirates will find an eager audience in Lewiston, where some kids start skating as soon as they can walk. His 7-year-old twin sons took to the ice when they were 4 -- after their grandfather bought each boy a pair of hockey skates and a helmet for Christmas.

"Once they got skates, we put them in the learn-to-skate program," Blue said. "Last year they played in the Mini-Mites Division and this year they'll be in the Mites Division. They love it."

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Mike Turcotte of Wales discusses his excitement Friday, Sept. 27, 2013 of the Pirates playing a full season at the Colisee in Lewiston

Gordon Chibroski

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Christian Ouellette of Lewiston is the account executive for Pirates ticket sales and hopes the excitement of the whole season being played in Lewiston – as well as lower ticket prices for season tickes – will help the Colisee sell out on a nightly basis.

Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer

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Randy Cyr of Lisbon Falls is so excited about the Pirates playing a full season at the Colisee in Lewiston that he immediately bought four season tickets.

Gordon Chibroski

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