Portland's Cross Insurance Arena closer to private management

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PORTLAND — After getting a new look and new name, the Cross Insurance Arena will soon have new management, too.

Neal Pratt, chairman of the arena board of trustees, announced Friday, Sept. 19, that negotiations will begin with Philadelphia-based Global Spectrum to manage the 6,900-seat arena.

A successful agreement would mark the first time the 37-year-old arena, formerly known as the Cumberland County Civic Center, will be privately managed.

Pratt expressed confidence the potential partnership will be a good fit.

“In the end, the Trustees concluded that Global Spectrum is very well suited to achieve our two primary management goals: better access to national resources that will lead to more entertainment options and more efficient facility operations, and an approach that continues the tradition of local community involvement and integration,” Pratt said in a news release.

The trustees considered proposals from two firms for arena operations and selected Global Spectrum following a Sept. 17 executive session. Pratt said the board decision was unanimous.

Global Spectrum President John Page expressed optimism about the arena and local market for events.

“This is like a homecoming for us,” Page said. “We look forward to the synergies we can create with the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor and our many other New England facilities.”

Trustee Brian Dudley last week identified the second company as SMG, also based near Philadelphia. Spectrum Global is a subsidiary of Comcast Corp., which operates communications and cable TV networks. Both SMG and Global Spectrum trace corporate roots to Philadelphia businessman Ed Snider, who also owns the NHL Philadelphia Flyers and Wells Fargo Arena through Comcast subsidiary Comcast Spectacor.

Snider was also instrumental in founding the Maine Mariners, the American Hockey League team that first called the Civic Center home in 1977 before moving to Providence in 1992.

The Portland Pirates moved to town in 1993 from Baltimore, then relocated to Lewiston last season when lease talks stalled. The team signed a five-year lease to return to Portland last February and will begin its season at home Oct. 11.

Global Spectrum operates about 125 arenas, convention centers and stadiums throughout the world, including the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.

Pratt on Monday said the company’s proposal was well-prepared, but some details need more work.

“The proposal in front of us is a starting point,” he said.

Introducing private management for the arena was first considered about 2 1/2 years ago as work began on a $33 million, publicly funded renovation that voters approved in November 2011. More than 37,000 square feet was added, including premium seating, locker rooms and ticket sales areas, Pratt said.

“We have done our due diligence and become experts, so to speak,” Pratt said. “We have a good sense of the model.”

If a contract is approved, Global Spectrum would also then name a new general manager to replace Steven Crane, who retired in July. Arena trustees would have “input and approval, in the management selection,” Pratt said.

Pratt said the length of the contract is still under discussion, and there may be some kind of escape clause, as is typical in management agreements.

Bangor-based Cross Insurance bought the naming rights for the former Civic Center in June, in a 10-year, $2.5 million deal. The deal was brokered with assistance from Philadelphia-based Front Row Marketing Services, also a subsidiary of Comcast Spectacor.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.