PORTLAND, ME – Professional hockey is making return to the city of Portland in 2018-19.
At the ECHL-hosted meetings in Las Vegas last month, it was announced that as Comcast Spectacor, the parent company of Spectra and the Philadelphia Flyers, purchased the Alaska Aces franchise and will move the team to Portland.
Maine’s largest city has been without professional hockey since Ron Cain sold the Portland Pirates franchise at the end of the 2015-16 American Hockey League regular season to a group of investors in Springfield, MA.
Mitchell Berkowitz, a member of the Cross Insurance Arena Board of Trustees, talked with The Sin Bin about the process of hockey returning to Portland. Berkowitz says the actual process three proposals to choose from. When they asked people to sharpen their pencils, the reality was the third proposal was distant from the second and first proposal.
“It was not easy for the strategic development committee to just simply say there’s an outstanding opportunity here, but the further we reviewed the number two proposal against the number one proposal, we found that Comcast Spectacor brought to the deal a great amount of resources and stability,” Berkowitz said.
Comcast Spectacor is already familiar to those who helped bring hockey back to Maine’s coastal town, as they are the private management firm that operates Cross Insurance Arena. As the process continued, Berkowitz says it became clear that the ability of Comcast Spectacor to wrap itself around its own management operations and make Cross Insurance Arena a successful venue because of the resources they were bringing to the table.
It became evident by early May that the Comcast Spectacor proposal was the best available and work began quickly to close the deal.
In addition to moving the Aces franchise more than three thousand miles, the new ownership group will begin the process of naming the team, and in the future, will find a NHL/AHL affiliation.
The Portland Pirates have had a long history in Portland for over 20 years, but Berkowitz says that the any new look or name will be a corporate decision and will not come from Cross Insurance Arena or the Board of Trustees. Currently, it is not known if the new franchise will involve the public in the naming process.
“More importantly it maybe better to build the brand on a new name and start fresh, rather change the perceptions of what the word ‘Pirates’ and the Pirates team did mean to Portland for many years before they left,” Berkowitz said.
Both sides have stated they would like to have a long-term, predictable, and stable relationship.
“You don’t get a return on investment in two years time in this business. Right off the bat, they (Comcast Spectacor) needed that additional time to be able to get their return on investment,” Berkowitz said. “Its not as if we’re starting from scratch because the interest in a sports team in Portland and in this region is not new. So we’re building on that. We think there is a lot to be built and that’s where Comcast Spectacor will come in and they will identify and develop those markets. Our fan base is excited and we hope the level of hockey and the names they bring in will become household names over time.”
The next chapter of hockey in Portland is just now starting to get written. In 15 months, fans at Cross Insurance Arena will get to see the puck drop in and support professional hockey in the Portland again.