Trustees of Cross Insurance Arena are keeping mum about the identity of the four groups that have expressed interest in bringing pro hockey back to Portland.

Joe Gray, former Portland city chairman, is chair of the board’s Strategic Development Committee, which plans to meet Monday to discuss in executive session the four proposals received by Tuesday afternoon’s deadline.

Neither Gray nor board chair Mitchell Berkowitz would name the interested parties. In a request for proposals that went out in early February, the board promised that “review and evaluation of materials and information submitted shall be done by the CIA Board of Trustees in a manner that respects the elements of proprietary information as well as confidentiality of the package as a whole. It will only be shared with the Board members and dealt with in executive session.”

The Portland Press Herald filed a Freedom of Access request Wednesday to view the proposals.

Two of the recipients of requests are known: Godfrey Wood and Comcast Spectacor, parent company of Spectra, the management firm contracted to operate Cross Insurance Arena.

Wood, who was instrumental in Portland landing an American Hockey League franchise in 1993, said Wednesday he didn’t submit a proposal. He had been working since May to assemble an investor group with the goal of replacing the Portland Pirates, who were sold and relocated last spring to Springfield, Massachusetts.


Comcast Spectacor also owns the National Hockey League’s Philadelphia Flyers. A company spokesman declined to comment Thursday on whether Comcast Spectacor had filed a proposal with the arena’s trustees.

Gray’s four-person committee includes Portland city manager Jon Jennings, contract compliance manager Dale Olmstead and Sue Witonis, liaison from the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners. They plan to review the proposals Monday and make a recommendation – or not – to the full board on Wednesday.

“We have essentially a whole new board of trustees,” said Gray, noting that six of the nine members have just begun serving. “In fairness to them, we want to give them an opportunity to have input and provide whatever additional information they may want.”

Jennings said that talking about the proposals before examining them would be premature.

Since the arena opened in 1977 as the Cumberland County Civic Center, a minor league hockey team has been a main tenant in all but three winters. There was a gap in 1992-93 between the Maine Mariners and Portland Pirates. There was another gap in 2013-14 because of renovations, then a lease dispute that led to the Pirates playing all home games in Lewiston.

“Portland has had a long and rich history with hockey,” said Gray, who said trustees have heard from many constituents about the issue. “The goal is sometime in the near term to have a team back here in Portland.”


Much of the talk since the Pirates left town has been centered on an ECHL franchise – and now it’s clear there will be no ECHL franchise in Portland until at least the 2018-19 season.

Headquartered in Princeton, New Jersey, the ECHL already is working on its 2017-18 schedule and league spokesman Joe Babik said via email that “there will be no other additions other than Worcester and Jacksonville.”

The Worcester (Mass.) Railers are an expansion franchise. The Jacksonville Icemen relocated from Evansville, Indiana. The Alaska Aces, members of the ECHL for 15 years, will be in what Babik termed “voluntary suspension” for the 2017-18 season after announcing Feb. 23 it was no longer economically sustainable for the franchise to operate in Anchorage.

Gray said his committee will examine the professional background of any potential ownership group along with community involvement and financial strength. Securing a lease agreement would be required of any group seeking to land an ECHL franchise, whether through relocation or expansion.

Brad Church, a former player and most recent chief operating officer of the Pirates, said he still hears from people interested in bringing a pro team to Portland and Brian McKenna, commissioner of the ECHL, is enthusiastic.

“I’m certainly in huge support of a team coming in,” Church said. “It’s an important part of the community, and if the right people are involved, it could come out well.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

[email protected]

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH

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