Maine Hockey Journal

Not so fast to assume the Pirates are leaving

Portland, ME – It appears the Portland Pirates could be playing their final season in Portland.

According to a story in the Albany Times Union, the Portland Pirates have been named as a possible replacement for the Albany River Rats next season after it was announced they’re relocating to Charlotte for the 2010-‘11 season.

However, Neal Pratt Chairman of the Cumberland County Civic Center Trustee says not so fast.

Pratt indicated that he was aware the Portland Pirates were looking at Albany as potential place to relocate should a new lease with the CCCC not come to fruition.

He still, however, it acting under the assumption that both parties are working in good faith in toward a new lease, and the Pirates will stay in Portland.

“This doesn’t catch me by surprise,” he said. “Brian (Petrovek) has been very forth right about this, and it doesn’t surprise me a bit that good business people would be looking everywhere at all times to consider what’s best for their business.”

The Pirates came to Portland in the summer of 1993 after former owner the late Tom Ebright relocated the franchise from Baltimore, MD.

The Pirates have spent the last 17 years in Portland playing at the Cumberland County Civic Center, winning the Calder Cup in 1993.

Ebright passed away in 1997, and the team underwent several ownership groups before Lyman Bullard and Brian Petrovek purchase the franchise in 2000.

The Pirates have had contentious lease negotiations in the past threatening to relocate if they didn’t receive what they believed was a fair lease.

Their current lease is set expire at the end of the season.

In 2008, the Pirates along with County Trustees, City of Portland and Cumberland County formed a task force to look at possible renovations, and had reach a point where it they could begin renovating as soon as 2012.

While news of a possible relocation for the Pirates didn’t catch Pratt by surprise, he’s still approaching the talks as if the Pirates will be Portland next season.

Especially based on his conversations with Petrovek over the last several weeks.

“It’s my hope the Pirates stay right here and (Petrovek) indicated to me as recently as yesterday that he hopes the Pirates stay right here and the devil will be in the details,” said Pratt.

Pratt was meeting with Petrovek today in hopes of hammering out a new lease, and remained hopeful that could be done.

“We’re going to do our level best to keep them here and I think they will do the (same).”

The economy makes for tough times and that’s the challenge were fighting on opposite sides of the table, but we’re going to do our best to hammer out,” said Pratt.

Pratt also noted that he hasn’t begun looking for a replacement should the Pirates opt to leave for New York because he’s putting his full efforts behind keeping the existing team in Portland.

“I haven’t entertained that possibility so I haven’t considered what we would do or have to do in that situation,” he said. “Obviously, we’ll deal with whatever arises and we’re prepared to deal with whatever arises, but right now I’m operating under the belief that the Pirates and Civic Center are negotiating in good faith for a lease extension that keeps them in Portland.”

“That’s what I’m working toward.”

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