Everyone who owns any kind of building knows about what scientists call “entropy” — the tendency of highly organized systems or structures to fall apart unless they are periodically restored or improved.

If you don’t fix a couple of shingles on the roof when the first little leak develops, it won’t be very long until there are a lot of leaks, and the whole roof needs to be replaced, at far greater expense and inconvenience.

The Cumberland County Civic Center isn’t any different, even though the “leaks” it has developed in its 34-year history aren’t limited to its physical plant. Instead, the civic center, home to the Portland Pirates hockey team and venue for a wide variety of events, from Disney ice-skating productions to concerts to business trade shows, is more than showing its age when it comes to having the size and quality of facilities and amenities that would make it an appealing host for many profitable types of attractions.

So, after years of weighing a variety of ideas for either renovating or reconstructing the center, its trustees — three officials who represent various county communities — have decided, along with a majority of the county commissioners, that voters should be asked to approve a bond issue later this year to upgrade the center.

True, at $28 million, the estimated cost is far more than fixing a few shingles. But it has been clear for years that the center has grown steadily more obsolete in its ability to handle more complex attractions, and to have room for enough patrons to make the shows profitable if they did come to Portland instead of going to competing facilities in nearby areas. Trustees have expressed concern that even the Pirates may try to move unless something is done soon.

The renovation plan, to be developed by architectural consultants, will likely contain new club seating, better bathrooms and food service facilities, and major improvements to “back house operations,” the behind-the-scenes sections of the center where equipment is loaded and unloaded.

The center was controversial when it first was proposed, with the county’s smaller outlying communities reluctant to approve a facility that residents there saw as only benefiting Greater Portland. One town, Otisfield, voted to leave Cumberland County and join Oxford County in protest.

The same pattern of opposition may or may not occur this time around, but either way, the center is a county asset. Fixing its “leaks” before they make the entire facility unusable is a project worth county-wide support.

 


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