Portland city councilors will vote Wednesday on an agreement that would allow the Maine Mariners hockey team to keep parking revenue generated at a city-owned garage during home games.

The deal, which the city hopes will help Cumberland County keep an anchor tenant for the newly renovated Cross Insurance Arena, also includes four season tickets for the city.

The city had similar agreements with the Portland Pirates, which in recent years returned over $45,000 a year to the minor league hockey franchise. Portland also received season tickets from that hockey franchise while it was here.

The Pirates left the city in 2016 after 23 seasons here, leaving the arena without an anchor tenant less than two years after county taxpayers invested $33 million into upgrades to accommodate the team and other events.

City Councilor Justin Costa, who leads the Economic Development Committee, which unanimously recommends approval of the parking agreement and a lease for office space at 94 Free St., said the parking revenue would help put the Mariners, an ECHL team, on a more stable financial footing as the franchise tries to build a fan base in Maine’s largest city.

“Ultimately, we hope that they succeed and can provide a long-term anchor tenant for the insurance arena because that does have a significant impact on the downtown businesses,” Costa said.


Costa said he could not predict how much revenue would be generated for the team.

But according to figures provided by the city, the Pirates received a little more than $47,000 from the parking agreement in each of their last two seasons.

The average attendance during those two seasons were 2,963 and 3,363. But negotiations with the Mariners and the Cross Insurance Arena were based on an average attendance of 2,100.

The Mariners signed a lease in June for the arena, which is funded through the county budget. County Manager Jim Gailey said the arena budget for fiscal year 2017 was down a little more than $593,000 without an anchor tenant. He said the annual bond payment with interest for the renovations is $2.7 million.

“(We) hope with arena football starting in April and hockey starting in September/October these numbers will turn around,” Gailey said in an email.

The Mariners, which are affiliated with the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers, also will lease 2,145 square feet of city-owned office space at 94 Free St. for up to 15 years. The rent would begin at $4,830 a year and increase over time until 2030, when it would be $19,320 for the remainder of the term.


A separate agreement would allow the team to keep all of the parking revenue generated at the city-owned parking garage on Spring Street during home games after security and city staff expenses are paid. That arrangement would last for the first seven years, when the team’s share would be recalculated.

The cost of maintaining the garage’s infrastructure still falls on the city, which has allocated nearly $1.6 million through its Capital Improvement Plan since 2016 for structural repairs. Another $350,000 in repairs is being planned in the coming years.

In exchange for parking revenues, the city would receive four season tickets “for promotional use.”

Greg Mitchell, the city’s economic development director, said it’s up to City Manager Jon Jennings to decide how the tickets should be used.

“When we have out-of-town guests come into Portland, there’d be an opportunity to use the tickets to showcase our sports venue with the Maine Mariners,” Mitchell said. “(Jennings) advises that the executive office will work with anyone interested in attending a game so that they can be used throughout the season.”

City Hall Communications Director Jessica Grondin said the city rarely used the tickets when they were provided by the Pirates, which she said at one point had to remind the city of its season tickets. “To my knowledge, and to those who are currently here, we have never used them,” she said.


Mitchell said agreements giving parking revenue to minor league sports are standard.

“Minor league sports teams at best are break-even propositions,” he said. “Providing some financial support becomes important to help with their establishment and growth in the community.”

The Mariners’ lease also includes free tickets for the county: including 10 for a charitable organization and 60 for promotional uses. Gailey said those tickets are used by the arena’s marketing staff to attract advertising revenue from businesses.

According to the team’s website, season tickets for a full season range from $432 to $756, depending on seat location.

The city had a similar parking and tickets agreement with the Pirates.

In 2010, the city entered into an agreement for the Pirates to keep parking revenues in exchange for a free half-page ad in the team’s annual yearbook, two season tickets and 400 individual tickets for “promotional use,” among other things. The team could charge $5 a vehicle.


A 2014 agreement increased the fees to $7 a vehicle, which went to the team, and ratcheted back the ticket request to two season tickets.

The city has similar agreements with the Maine Red Claws, a minor league basketball team that plays at the Portland Expo, and the Portland Sea Dogs, a minor league baseball team that plays at Hadlock Field. The agreements cover lots at King Middle School, Fitzpatrick Stadium and the Expo. They also cover Maine Medical Center’s garage on Congress Street and a lot behind Amato’s after 5 p.m. and on weekends, Grondin said.

According to the Red Claws agreement provided by the city, the team receives revenue from parking and concessions sales, after the city recoups its costs for providing those services. The city does not appear to receive any complimentary tickets from the team.

Grondin said that parking agreement returned nearly $4,300 to the Red Claws last year, while the concessions agreement returned nearly $59,000 to the club.

The Sea Dogs, however, are responsible for their own concessions and keep the revenue, except for non-club events, for which the team pays the city 10 percent of the revenue. The team also keeps the net parking revenue, which exceeded $36,000 to the club last year, Grondin said.


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