By Robert Macdonald
Mayor of Lewiston
When I moved to Lewiston in 1977, the city was on the decline as a mill town. Foot traffic on Lisbon Street had declined dramatically. Businesses were leaving for the malls, a place where there was no shortage of retail businesses or parking. The city was on life support.
But on Friday and Saturday nights back then, lower Lisbon Street came alive. Bars and social clubs were filled with workers, eager to unwind after a week of tedious labor. This led to many incidents involving them letting off steam, much of which required a police response.
This weekend interaction drew many who jockeyed for parking spaces, refreshments at the ready, to get the best possible view of the upcoming night’s action (fights).
But slowly and steadily our city declined. Our mill and industrial economy was replaced by a federal housing program, which—although well-intended—resulted in blighted neighborhoods and Lewiston started to become known by a very hurtful moniker.
However, Lewistonians have been shaped by two sports: boxing and hockey. Both take heart and a “can do” spirit. When you are knocked down, you get back up on your feet and continue to fight. Your eyes are always on the prize, no matter how distant it may appear.
This spirit is propelling our city into a vibrant up-and-coming player in Maine’s economy. People believe in and are investing in Lewiston. Many in Portland no longer look at us as an economic joke.
Desire and hard work occasionally need the help of fortune. And fortune has surely shined on the Twin Cities in the form of the Portland Pirates. We are now the home of a hockey team that is just one step below the teams playing in the National Hockey League. The question now becomes: will we keep them in the Twin Cities (the “LA Pirates” sound great), or will we give up and watch them move to another venue?
I say, let’s do everything we can to make them part of our landscape! This team would be another selling point for bringing businesses and families to the Twin Cities. Our central location places us in close proximity to the ocean and the lakes in the summer, foliage in the fall and mountains and trails for skiing and snowmobiling in the winter. The Oxford Casino is only a few miles away.
The Pirates give the Twin Cities exposure through the United States and Canada. They bring people to our area that have never seen or heard of the Twin Cities, and they create commerce, filling our hotels, restaurants and retail stores.
It’s time to step up and show that we still have the intestinal fortitude of those that came before us. Let’s start filling the Colisée every Pirates game. Make a lot of noise and do a lot of cheering. Let’s show the Pirates’ ownership and management that the Twin Cities are hockey towns and we want it to be their permanent home.
Like any business, problems come up that must be addressed. The occasional long wait at the concession stands is in the process of being corrected. There have been complaints that no one knows the Pirates players or their management.
Let’s remember that initially the Pirates were scheduled to play the beginning of their season at the Colisée until the Portland Civic Center was redone. When no agreement could be reached between Pirates and civic center management, all the Pirates home games were rescheduled to be played at the Colisée. Integrating the Pirates players and their management into our community is being worked on.
The MAINEiacs management broke the hearts of many local hockey fans. They’re gone, a new team has taken their place and it’s time to put the past behind and move forward. We have an American Hockey League team playing in the Twin Cities—something that no other city in Maine enjoys.
It’s time for businesses and residents alike to step up and show that the Twin Cities still have the best hockey fans in Maine.
The question to be answered in the next few months by the residents of Lewiston and Auburn: will Portland’s loss become our gain?