PORTLAND — It’s played on turf instead of ice, but another speedy sport could be coming to the Cumberland County Civic Center to replace the Portland Pirates ice hockey team.
The Maine Moose Trax, the first franchise in the new professional United States Lacrosse League, hopes to make the Civic Center its home beginning in September 2014. The team is owned by Josh Plowman and Tyson Nason, who are 2005 Gorham High School graduates.
Plowman on Tuesday said the Civic Center is a “target venue” for the team, although he has not signed a lease for the arena.
“In the last 10 years alone, lacrosse has exploded,” said Plowman, who also coaches lacrosse at Westbrook High School.
Civic Center Board of Trustees Chairman Neal Pratt did not return phone calls Tuesday about possible lease negotiations or the arrival of the Moose Trax. Civic Center General Manager Steve Crane said the lacrosse proposal needs more discussion.
Crane called it “interesting and intriguing,” but said he has had only a preliminary discussion with Plowman and Nason. More discussion that could involve concession sales or advertising revenue sharing would have to take place with trustees, he said.
The Moose Trax are an extension of the Maine Moose Trax Lacrosse Club youth program, operated by Plowman and partners Brad Stiles and Joseph Martin, which plays indoors in Saco.
Nick Derosiers, a founder and chairman of the New York-based USLL, said Tuesday that Portland is one of seven cities east of the Mississippi River that have secured franchises. He said he and USLL Commissioner Anthony Chase have 16 applications for the eighth and final franchise.
Derosiers said the league will play a fall schedule of 24 games, and Portland’s support for the Pirates, baseball Sea Dogs, and basketball Red Claws make the city desirable.
“It is a town that understands minor-league sports,” he said. “We have no doubt Portland could be a true standout in the USLL.”
Chase and Derosiers were involved in the North American Lacrosse League, which ceased operations last year, and said they will strive first to make the new league viable with strong charter franchises before considering adding more teams and widening the league’s geographic scope.
The Civic Center, with about 6,700 seats, would be one of USLL’s smaller venues, Derosiers said.
With a smaller field than traditional lacrosse and the addition of dasher boards, Plowman said the indoor five-on-five action will be intense.
“Just look at what indoor goalies wear,” he said. “It is completely different because they see more shots, it’s non-stop action.”
Outdoor lacrosse is played on a 110-by-80-yard field with 10 players on each side.
Plowman was a team captain at Gorham High School, but said the team did not begin to play until his junior year. He also played four years at the University of Southern Maine, an NCAA Division III program.
With no lease agreement yet, Plowman was not prepared to discuss ticket prices, but said he and Nason intend to keep prices affordable for families.
Efforts to bring the lacrosse team to the Civic Center come as lease negotiations with the Portland Pirates remain stalled. The impasse led Pirates owner Brian Petrovek to move the team to the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston after filing a lawsuit against the Civic Center in Cumberland County Superior Court.
Last month, Petrovek offered to drop the suit if trustees would reopen lease negotiations that have been stuck on how the team and Civic Center would split concessions and advertising revenues. The Civic Center rejected that offer.
If the Pirates lease remains unsigned, Derosiers said the Moose Trax could benefit.
“We won’t be fighting anybody for those Friday and Saturday night dates,” he said.