Today was a big a news day for the Portland Pirates, both on the ice and off.
While the Pirates were dealing with off-ice issues regarding their future at the Cumberland County Civic Center, there was still work to be done on the ice as the Pirates prepare for their season opener at home against the Manchester Monarchs.
Matt Ellis was at practice today for the first time since being assigned to Portland by the Buffalo Sabres. He skated on a line with Luke Adam and Mark Mancari. The rest of the line combinations were Parrish-Byron-Stuart, Whitmore-Roloff-Legault and McCauley-Turnbull-Tropp.
Schutz and Lagace were extras.
TJ Brennan was back on the ice after missing yesterday with an illness, he was paired with Biega, while the rest of the pairs remained the same.
The Pirates released their roster today listing 12 forwards, seven defensemen and two goaltenders.
Forwards: Luke Adam, Paul Byron, Matt Ellis, Jacob Lagace, Mark Mancari, Dennis McCauley, Mark Parrish, Felix Schutz, Colin Stuart, Corey Tropp, Travis Turnbull and Derek Whitmore.
Defense: Alex Biega, T.J. Brennan, Tim Conboy, Nick Crawford, Marc-Andre Gragnani, Dennis Persson and Drew Schiestel.
Goaltenders: Jhonas Enroth and David Leggio.
Not listed is Maxime Legault and Brian Roloff, but both were still with the team and could be added on a PTO. Dineen has been speaking highly of Legault over the last several days on his work ethic and marked improvement from last season.
Off-ice, the Pirates along with other members of the Joint Task Force including the Civic Center, Board of Trustees and City of Portland in charge of potential renovations of the aging facility, voted unanimously today to approve renovations for the Cumberland County Civic Center.
This is just the first step in a number of steps to a completed renovation that will include premium seating and better amenities such as bathrooms, concessions and improved infrastructure for concert and touring acts.
Potential price tag for the project is estimated between 27-29 million, which the majority will be paid for by a bond that county taxpayers will vote on in November, 2011.
Most on the board of trustees know it will be hard sell, but one that must be done in order to keep the building viable. If nothing is done, the Civic Center is projected to lose events and eventually operating at a loss.
Still, it’s a task that Trustee chair Neal Pratt is willing to accept.
“I view it as our job, collectively, to make the case to the voters that this makes economic sense. That the return on investment is not only worthwhile, but it makes sense for the county and the region from a broader standpoint and the information is there to make that point,” said Pratt.
The Pirates were more than happy with the result of the building because it will give them a great ability to reach out to their corporate base with premium seating, as well as improving concession sale on game days.
“It satisfies all of our needs,” said Pirates Managing Owner/CEO Brian Petrovek. “It’s affordable, it’s compelling, there is a return on investment, and it’s never been a better time to pull the pieces together. Everybody thinking the same way (but) we’ve got work to do to sell it to the voters.”
One topic facing both sides is a new lease, and both Pratt and Petrovek admit that they need begin talks on a more permanent lease. The Pirates signed new two-year deal last year after the franchise explored other options including relocating to Albany, NY.
Both feel a deal is reachable sooner than later.
“The Pirates have been a very important partner in (study) and they’ve been tremendously supportive throughout this process,” said Pratt. “It makes sense to talk to the Pirates at some point in the near term about what makes sense going forward. This was a huge piece of the puzzle. Once we get past (trustee approval), then its focus is on implementation and part of the implementation is a discussion with the Pirates about a long term deal that keeps them here.”
Petrovek agrees with that sentiment, but there is a gorilla in the room called Saco. The Pirates have been examining a potential move from the Civic Center to a new 5,000 seat arena off I-95 in Saco, but Petrovek indicates that it’s the Pirates choice to stay in the Civic Center to at least play their games and use Saco as a new practice facility.
“We got some work to do on finding some common ground on some lease terms, but there has never been a better environment for us to do that now based upon what we’ve gone through in this process in the last three or four months,” he said.
If (owners) Ron Cain, Lyman Bullard and I were sitting here,” said Petrovek, “We would all say we’ prefer to play 40 games here, not in Saco, that has been the case for the last 10 years.”
“We still look at the possibility in Saco for a place where we can train and practice on a regular basis and partner with Orthopedic Associates and (Pirates Minority Owner and owner of MHG Ice Centre) Ron Cain’s group in finishing the work on that facility.”
We won’t have to worry about a lockout in the minor as the AHL and PHPA announced today they’ve ratified a new collective bargaining agreement.
Changes to the CBA include significant improvements to the health and welfare plan currently offered to AHL players and their families and better flexibility to the AHL for scheduling Calder Cup Playoff games. There is also an increase to per-diem and minimum salary as well as modifications to housing and travel provisions.
The new deal is for four years and will expire Aug 31, 2014.