Portland panel OKs more talks to entice Jacks

March 17, 1993|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Staff Writer

Stung by the defection of the Maine Mariners last summer, officials in Portland gave a green light yesterday for continued negotiations to lure either the Baltimore Skipjacks or another, unidentified American Hockey League franchise.

Steve Rosenblatt, general manager of the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland, said the board of trustees for the arena was updated on those negotiations by the four-member sports committee and the consensus of the trustees was to "bring back the best lease we can."

The Skipjacks are believed to be Portland's first choice to replace the Mariners, who moved to Providence, R.I., for the 1992-93 season, after 15 seasons in Maine.

Rosenblatt said the next step was to "talk to both groups and see which one approaches closure fastest and which one makes the most financial sense." He said negotiations with Skipjacks owner Tom Ebright were "75 to 80 percent" finished.

"I'm fairly confident [Portland will wind up with a team]," Rosenblatt said. "But I've been through this before and like Yogi Berra said, 'It isn't over until it's over.' "

Portland attempted to lure the New Haven (Conn.) Nighthawks last summer after the Mariners left, but an 11th-hour bid kept the AHL team in New Haven.

Leonard Nelson, counsel for the Civic Center, said Portland's package would include help from the corporate community.

"This is a great community," Nelson said. "I think this community will support minor-league hockey the way Baltimore supports major-league sports."

Ebright was unavailable for comment yesterday.

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