Taxpayers Cover $34 Million Arena Renovation, Hockey Team Leaves Two Years Later

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What is the absolute worst, most jarring way to learn your team is leaving town? Nope, not that. Nope, that’s pretty bad, but this is worse:

Scott Prue of Biddeford was in the Pirates’ office at 4 p.m. to pick up a jersey won by his son in a raffle and to renew three season tickets. Ben Locke, director of ticket operations, was helping Prue with the transaction when an associate called Locke to a back room.

“Two minutes later, he came back and said he was sorry, but apparently the team was moving to Springfield and that I had to leave the office,” Prue said. “As I was leaving, I had to unlock the front door because they had locked it.”

The AHL’s Portland (Maine) Pirates, affiliates of the Florida Panthers, will be sold and move to Springfield, Mass., effectively immediately upon the AHL’s and Panthers’ approval.

It was a good 23-year-run in Portland, lotta good memories. And sure, it might’ve been nice to inform the city of Portland, or the Pirates players themselves. But money’s money, and the Springfield investors are eager to replace their own former AHL franchise, which is departing for Tucson, Ariz., this summer.


Let’s say this again for the umpteenth time: Don’t use taxpayer money on sports arenas. Cumberland County residents are still paying off $34 million in bonds that covered renovations to the Cross Insurance Arena, which was part of the agreement to get the Pirates to sign a five-year lease. That lease was signed in 2014.

Now, two seasons later, the arena is without an anchor tenant, and per the agreement, the county was and remains on the hook for the building’s annual operating losses. It lost $600,000 last year, even with a hockey team.