— Whether the Portland Pirates announce that they will stay at the Cumberland County Civic Center or that they are the American Hockey League team that is rumored to be headed to Albany, N.Y., it doesn’t matter.

The anxiety caused by the potential loss of a popular entertainment draw, a good public face for the region and a solid corporate citizen is enough to remind us of some hard facts.

Professional sports teams are businesses. Keeping a team like the Pirates in Portland in the long run is going to take more than fan support. It will also require a commitment to move forward with plans to replace or remodel the 33-year-old Cumberland County Civic Center, creating a facility that can match venues in other places that would also like the benefits that come with having such a team.

To their credit, the Pirates do not appear to be holding up the civic center by threatening to move, and in his public statements, team CEO and managing owner Brian Petrovek says that extending his lease with the civic center beyond its expiration date of April 30 is his first priority.

But he does admit that the decision will rise or fall on turning a profit in what is now an outmoded facility. And if Albany does not steal the Pirates away, some other community with a better building than ours just might.

The Cumberland County Civic Center seats 6,715 fans for a hockey game. Albany’s Times Union Center, owned by Albany County, New York, has 14,000 seats. Capacity is not everything: Portland actually outdrew the River Rats, the last team to call Albany home. But the size and condition of the civic center here puts a limit on the Pirates’ ability to make money, and that could cost southern Maine the team if it’s not addressed.


The civic center board has commissioned a renovation study that could be the next step in a long-stalled campaign to improve or replace the facility. We can only hope the effort is in time to keep Portland in the game when it comes to keeping the Pirates.


An editorial on page A10 Friday misspelled the name of Portland’s special education director. She is Barbara Dee, not Dees.


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