By Robert E. Macdonald
Mayor of Lewiston
Last Thursday, September 26, was the happiest day of my mayoral term. I feel it also has become a defining moment in both Lewiston and Auburn and possibly the surrounding communities.
The events that happened that day clearly open a path to success and prosperity to our area. But this success can only be achieved, first and foremost, by you, the people residing in our community. This is your chance to step up to the plate and put our area on the map.
What happened on September 26? Two major things: First the various groups responsible for arts and cultural events in the Twin Cities organized into a single group, Arts and Culture Lewiston Auburn. Second, although it is deeply instilled in Lewiston-Auburn culture, our second piece of good news does not fit into the preceding category: first-class professional hockey. Portland’s loss is our gain.
The relocation of the Portland Pirates hockey team to Lewiston presents us with an enormous opportunity to showcase our area. This gift of good fortune, which has fallen into our laps, gives us a means upon which to build our area and its economy. Our cities now have a highly skilled, professional hockey team. A hockey team whose caliber will make the Twin Cities a destination.
But before we celebrate, there is work to be done. Work by the team owners, by city officials, by local business and—mostly importantly of all—you, Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public.
The owners must do the grunt work: provide clean and welcoming facilities, obtain corporate sponsors, civic engagement, advertising and providing a quality product, which will consistently draw not only area hockey fans, but fans from other parts of the state. Our businesses must be ready to provide sponsorships.
Perhaps on Pirate Days (the days the Pirates will be playing in town) our local restaurants and eateries could run special discounted menus in order to show off their establishments. City officials must provide safety and signage, which will clearly direct those not familiar with the area to the Colisée. Lastly, but most importantly, are Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public: the fans.
You are the most important ingredient in this mixture. Tickets have been priced to accommodate our local population. We have to fill the Colisée each and every game. During the winter, these games will provide an alternative to TV and the opportunity to socialize with friends. To lead by example, I will be purchasing a season ticket.
But how does a successful Pirates team benefit our area? There are many Pirates fans in the state. The season will bring them to Lewiston a minimum of 38 days. That’s 38 days to explore and sample the many amenities offered by the Twin Cities. This has the potential to attract both residential and business relocation to our area.
This type of activity could potentially raise property values and bring property taxes down by making this a place where people want to reside. In short, it’s another piece that will complement the Dempsey Challenge, the Art Walks, the Balloon Festival, the Film Festival, the Ice Festival and the Bates College Dance Festival, all of which brings people to L-A and exposes them to our community.
Several weeks ago, I was informed there was a possibility that L/A Arts might cease to exist. That caused this Neanderthal much distress. Lewiston was moving forward, thanks in part to L/A Arts. It appeared that this piece of our continuing success puzzle would disappear.
Upon speaking with Mike Dostie about the loss, I left somewhat depressed. But Mike did yeoman’s work to partner with others, and he has now formed Arts and Culture Lewiston Auburn, a collaboration of art and culture groups now under one roof.
These are the groups that bring life to this community. They bring economic prosperity to our area by attracting visitors from throughout the state, New England and Canada. To Mike Dostie and those with whom he worked to bring this to fruition, thank you.
There are many individuals throughout the Twin Cities who spend many hours of their time making L-A a destination. Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public, it is now your chance to make a contribution by supporting the Pirates and the arts.