Portland, Maine's minor-league hockey team is skipping town for Springfield, Mass. just five years after voters approved a $33 million bond plan to modernize the team's home arena.
The American Hockey League's Portland Pirates have called Maine's largest city home since 1993, and before that the city hosted the AHL's Maine Mariners for 15 years.
Springfield Mayor Dominic Sarno said in a statement that a local investor has bought the Pirates and plans to relocate to his city, replacing a team in April announced its own plans to move to Arizona.
"While we understand there are still some hurdles to overcome, we are encouraged by this news and hopeful that professional hockey will be back in Springfield this upcoming season," Sarno said in his statement. A local owner sold the Springfield Falcons to the NHL's Arizona Coyotes, which plans to move the team to Tucson. The Falcons had played at the MassMutual Center in downtown Springfield since 1994.
The Pirates' NHL parent, the Florida Panthers, said in a statement that Pirates owner Ron Cain signed a letter of intent to sell the franchise pending league approval, but did not provide details on the agreement.
Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling could not be reached for comment, but said in a press conference last week that the move "is going to have a terrible impact on our local economy."
Cumberland County voters in November 2011 approved a 25-year, $33 million bond plan to renovate the 6,733-seat Cumberland County Civic Center. (It's now known as Cross Insurance Arena.)
In addition to being home of the Pirates, the 39-year facility also hosts concerts, trade shows, conventions, high school graduation ceremonies and some University of Maine hockey games. The bonds, which were sold in 2012, financed facade improvements, new seating, added wheelchair accessibility, additional restrooms and increased concourse space.