Portland Pirates to shift to Lewiston after local negotiations fail Five-year deal discussed in APril falls through

PORTLAND, Maine – Early in September, the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League sued the Cumberland County Civic Center, with the intent of forcing the Civic Center to abide by the terms of a five-year lease announced in April of this year. The Portland Press Herald reported that the board of trustees of the civic center said the announcement noted that final negotiations were still needed on some points and no lease was ever signed.

Both sides in the disagreement continued to negotiate during the off season with little movement to show for the efforts. As has been reported issues of revenue from concessions and other income streams could not be satisfied.portland-pirates-logo

The Portland Press Herald reported that following the lawsuit, Superior Court Justice Thomas Humphrey called both sides into the Cumberland County Business Court for a settlement conference, a mediation step intended to get litigants to reach an agreement rather than move to trial. Under the rules of a settlement conference, discussions are off the record and Humphrey ordered both sides not to discuss the situation publicly.

On Wednesday, a conference between sides was held without success.

On Thursday, the Portland Pirates released the following statement from Pirates managing owner and CEO Brian Petrovek.

“As you all know, Lyman Bullard and I started this journey thirteen years ago. All we have ever sought is a sustainable business model, as caretakers to a well-respected brand. We thought we were there last April 17th when the Civic Center Trustees approved terms for a five-year lease with a mutual option for five more and when the Chair of the Trustees, Neal Pratt, stated, the next day, in the Portland Press Herald: “This was the last and only deal to be made… there was no going back to the drawing board”.

Ron (Cain) and I are here today to announce that we will be playing our entire 2013-14 38 game home regular season schedule, plus playoffs if our team earns that right, in the building we are all in right now, the historic Androscoggin Bank Colisee.

The Cumberland County court appointed settlement and mediation process was not successful, unfortunately, for our thousands of fans and supporters in the region, and ended late yesterday afternoon. We will be proceeding with litigation to protect our rights, primarily the right to play hockey, for our players, and in front of our fans, in the Cumberland County Civic Center in the future.

All we have asked for, during this ill-timed, protracted five-month period, is that the Civic Center honor the deal terms which both parties agreed to and which were approved by the Civic Center Board of Trustees on April 17 of this year. The Trustees have refused to do that. And for that reason, Pirates fans should be outraged, 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.

Now we are here, beginning this afternoon, with people who want us to be here, who want to work with us, get to know us, enjoy the sport and entertainment experience with us, and we now turn the page and focus all of our energies, both on and off the ice, on providing a world class professional hockey experience, the American Hockey League, at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee and put real meaning behind “home ice advantage” as we compete for the first ever Calder Cup in the storied history of this venue in the twin cities of Lewiston and Auburn.

Our plan is to continue to practice and train on a daily basis in Ron’s outstanding facility in Saco, the OA Performance Center and MHG Ice Centre. We plan to retain the Portland Pirates name for the present time. We do not feel it is our place or right to strip the equity and value of what has been built by countless players, coaches, staff, fans, former owners, sponsors and friends for over two decades because of decisions made by nine Trustees of the Cumberland County Civic Center. Their actions and disregard for the public’s interests, and our rights as a tenant, will not be matched foolishly or arbitrarily by us.

We’ll let the fans of this region determine how we should best proceed for the future. We need this community’s support but we intend to earn it. We consider this a once in a generation opportunity for LA, Androscoggin county and outlying areas to take hold of an American Hockey League team and call it its own, but we intend to give you lots of exciting reasons why. For now our focus is on satisfying the needs of our team and the Phoenix Coyotes, our proud NHL affiliate, on providing the best that the American Hockey League can offer 38 times over the next seven months, and beyond we hope, deep into the Calder Cup playoffs, a memorable experience for fans of all ages at an affordable price and on working hard to revitalize sponsor interest locally, and finally, on embracing this community in the hope that it will embrace us.”

With that statement, the Pirates will play the entire 2013-14 AHL season in Lewiston.

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