PORTLAND — Work is underway on the first major renovation of the aging Cumberland County Civic Center.
At a public ceremony on Aug. 22, Civic Center officials and project engineers officially broke ground on the renovation. The 35-year old arena hosts concerts, shows, conferences and the Portland Pirates professional hockey team.
Improvements will include creating luxury suites and 300 club seats, updating and expanding locker rooms, and adding restroom space — with more than double the current number of fixtures.
Plans also call for expanded ticketing areas, a new team store, a new loading dock, mechanical system upgrades, new handicapped-accessible entries and changes to the building’s exterior.
Ideas for renovating the Civic Center have been discussed publicly since the early 1990s. In 2010, the Civic Center’s board of trustees approved recommendations for the renovation, and last November Cumberland County voters OK’d a $33 million bond to fund the project.
But the renovation almost hit a last-minute snag at a Planning Board meeting two weeks ago. The board heard arguments by T.R. Quesada, representing a group of local property owners, who said pedestrians would be endangered because the proposed loading dock wouldn’t provide adequate turning space for large tractor-trailer trucks.
Nevertheless, the board was persuaded that with flaggers guiding the big trucks, the dock design would work. The board approved the renovation by a 4-0 vote.
The renovation adds more than 39,000 square feet to the total area of the Civic Center – mostly by “filling in” space near the building’s four corners. The capacity of the arena will remain about the same, with about 6,700 fixed seats and space for about 7,500 concert-goers.
Construction will be done in two phases.
The first phase, which begins this week, will overhaul the building’s Free Street entrance so that it no longer is below the level of the surrounding sidewalk. During this phase, one lane of Free Street will be closed to traffic and parking will be restricted.
After the completion of the Pirates hockey season next spring, work will begin on phase two, which includes most of the interior construction and changes to entrances on Spring Street.
The entire project is expected to be completed in October 2013.
A rendering showing the planned replacement for the Cumberland County Civic Center’s steep stairway at the corner of Spring and Center streets in Portland.
An artist’s rendering of the renovated Cumberland County Civic Center, showing planned changes to the northwest entrance, on Free Street in Portland.