Portland lease has no big gifts Caps, new team sign 1-year deal


The three-year lease that sends Baltimore's American Hockey League Skipjacks to Portland, Maine, next season will break no banks in New England.

There were no attendance guarantees and only a few notable perks for Skipjacks owner Tom Ebright.

"We didn't promise him the world," Steve Rosenblatt, general manager of the Cumberland County (Maine) Civic Center, said yesterday after its board of trustees unanimously approved the agreement. "He didn't get anything like the Mariners got to go to Providence. It was a pretty straight business deal."

Ebright's Portland Pirates will get 8 percent of concession revenue at the 6,726-seat Civic Center and $2 per car per date at a 600-space parking garage adjacent to the building. The Pirates will replace the Maine Mariners, who relocated in Providence, R.I., last summer with a long-term lease and lucrative concession rights.

Ebright described the deal as "no better or worse" than the one he has at the Baltimore Arena, although he does not receive parking revenue here and gets considerably less than 8 percent of the concessions.

At a news conference in Baltimore a month ago, Ebright asked the corporate community to make $10,000 pledges for season tickets for next season. When none was forthcoming, he decided to move the franchise.

"What I got," Ebright said of his Portland lease, "was a guarantee of support."

That guarantee came in the form of enthusiastic response by Portland's fans to the news hockey was returning to the coastal town after a year's absence. Ebright said he received 100 deposits for season tickets during a news conference Friday that heralded the team's arrival.

Rosenblatt said the rush continued when the Civic Center accepted some 300 requests for season tickets yesterday. "The phones haven't stopped ringing," he said. "People are throwing money, checks and credit cards at us. We weren't prepared for this.

"Obviously, [Ebright's] was an economic decision. Portland is a lot different than Baltimore. We're further away from Boston. The competition that kept people from coming to the Skipjacks isn't here."

In related developments:

* The Washington Capitals announced they had signed a one-year working agreement with Ebright in Portland. They will supply the Pirates with 10 players, along with coaching and training staffs. Capitals general manager David Poile said Skipjacks coach Barry Trotz and assistant Paul Gardner will go to Portland with the team. "We accomplished what we wanted to do," Poile said. "Plus, we maintained control of the on-ice situation by having our coaches there."

* Larry Revo, who owns the Roanoke (Va.) Valley Rampage in the East Coast Hockey League, has reached an agreement to move his team to Huntsville, Ala., next season, according to Ana Loyce, administrative assistant at the Von Braun Civic Center in Huntsville.

That leaves Ebright, who says he wants to bring an ECHL team to Baltimore, with two options. He has a standing offer of $650,000 for the Knoxville (Tenn.) Cherokees, and he has the option of applying for an expansion franchise in the league.

Ebright said he wants a renewal of 500 season tickets to replace the Skipjacks here. He has gotten 100 deposits for renewals.

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