After 23 seasons in Maine, the Portland Pirates are on the brink of moving to Springfield.
Springfield’s mayor, Dominic J. Sarno, confirmed that the sale of the city’s American Hockey League team was imminent in a statement to the Portland Press-Herald.
“I have been informed that a broad-based local investor group has signed a letter of intent to purchase the Portland Pirates,” Sarno said. “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.”
Springfield has been looking to fill the void by the recent sale of the Springfield Falcons to the Arizona Coyotes, which threatened to end the city’s 80-year tie to the American Hockey League.
The expected loss also created sudden uncertainty for a city in the process of a large-scale renewal of its downtown area, with the arrival of the $950 million MGM Springfield resort casino complex in three years.
Now, Portland finds itself in the same predicament Springfield was in. Portland has been home to the Pirates since 1993, when the Baltimore Skipjacks relocated the team to Maine, but Portland’s minor league hockey history goes back to 1977, when the Maine Mariners joined the AHL.
The Pirates had struggled through middling seasons and low attendance in recent years. In 2013, entrepreneur Ron Cain became majority owner. In 2014, he negotiated a five-year lease to keep the team in Portland. The same year, voters approved a $33 million bond to renovate Cross Insurance Arena.