September 26, 2013

Legal issues force Pirates out of longtime home in Portland

By Mike Miccoli

In a strange turn of events, the Portland Pirates announced on Thursday that all of their home games for the 2013-14 AHL season will be played in Lewiston, at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee, rather than the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland, their home ice for the past 20 years.

This wouldn’t be too much of a surprise in any given offseason for an AHL team, except for the fact that the Pirates are less than two weeks away from their opening night game against the Manchester Monarchs.

The Pirates did have an agreement to play the first 13 games of the regular season at the Colisee based on renovations planned to be made at the Civic Center. Now, their remaining 25 games will take place in Lewiston, as well.

Legal battles stemming from a lease dispute between Neal Pratt, chairman of the Civic Center Board of Trustees, and Ron Cain and Brian Petrovek, Pirates’ owner and managing owner, caused the management to seek a new arena to house the AHL team. After a day of mediation on Wednesday, no new deal was made.

“Pirates fans should be outraged,” said Petrovek in a team-released statement on Thursday. “But we consider ourselves fortunate that we can now provide them with a venue to see the team play just up the road and for that, we are grateful and determined to make this a success.”

Up the road? Perhaps. The two arenas are approximately 40 miles away from each other, which could have an impact on attendance, especially from season-ticket holders. The capacity of the Pirates’ new home arena will also be significantly reduced, dropping from 6,700 to 3,737 for a hockey game. Because of the revision of the schedule, some of the dates of the Pirates’ home games were altered.

The team does plan to keep the Portland Pirates name “for the present time,” even though they now reside in Lewiston/Auburn.

“Our town is now L/A (Lewiston/Auburn),” said Petrovek. “Your team is the Pirates.”

Twitter: @MikeMiccoli