Androscoggin Bank Colisee – Portland Pirates
Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.57
Androscoggin Bank Colisee
190 Birch St
Lewiston, ME 04240
Year Opened: 1958
Temporary Home for the Pirates
The Androscoggin Bank Colisee, formerly known as the Central Maine Youth Center, is perhaps best known as the site of one of sport’s most iconic photographs, that of Muhammad Ali (at the time known as Cassius Clay) standing over Sonny Liston, taunting Liston after knocking him down during their heavyweight championship boxing match on May 25, 1965.
Although the Colisee is located in the small city of Lewiston, it has hosted its share of notable teams and events. The Maine Nordiques of the long-defunct North American Hockey League called the Colisee home from 1973 to 1977, and the Lewiston Maineiacs of the Quebec Major Junior League played here from 2003-2011. In addition, the Colisee has hosted the NCAA Division III Frozen Four and annually hosts the Maine High School State Championships. The Boston Celtics would regularly play exhibition games here during the 1960’s. As mentioned before, the Heavyweight Championship of the world was decided here in 1965.
The Portland Pirates came to the Colisee as an interim tenant while their home rink, the Cumberland County Civic Center, was renovated following the 2013 American Hockey League playoffs. Renovations were to be so extensive as to make the rink unavailable until well into the 2013-2014 season. Originally, the Pirates were to begin the season with a road-heavy schedule, playing their first 13 home games in Lewiston. However, a contact dispute between the Pirates’ ownership and the CCCC board of trustees over concession revenues forced the team to look for a temporary home for the remainder of the 2013-2014 season. In stepped the Colisee, providing the Pirates with a consistent home in the Portland area for the entire season. As of this writing of this review in December, no resolution to the contract dispute has been reached, leaving the future of the Pirates very much in doubt.
Food & Beverage 3
For an arena of its size, the Colisee has more variety in its concessions than one might expect. Still, the menu does not vary too far from standard arena fare. Recent renovations included the addition of the new Tim Horton Food Court, where the hungry hockey fan can purchase hot dogs ($3), chicken nuggets ($5), hamburgers ($3.50), pizza slices ($3.50), as well as various sides and snacks. Pepsi products are featured here, with 16 ounce bottles selling for $2. For fans seeking adult beverages can find pony-sized cans of Miller Lite ($4), Sam Adams ($5), and Labatt Blue ($7) at the pizza stand. Other stands sell Dippin’ Dots and pretzels for fans looking for snacks.
There is a small souvenir stand near the entrance to the arena, selling a nice variety of Pirates gear.
The Colisee does not offer anything out of the ordinary as far as game presentation goes. The typical arena rock music blares from the speakers during play stoppages, and there is an emcee roaming the arena giving away items to fans and chatting with players during intermissions. The Pirates hold 50/50 and jersey raffles during each game. The mascot, Salty Pete, is available throughout the game for photo ops with young fans. For the most part, fans here are quiet and respectful. It is possible to hear the players barking out instructions to each other throughout the game, as it is very quiet in the Colisee during game play. Unfortunately, the game atmosphere at the Colisee lacks much of the passion and edge that was present at the CCCC.
An interesting aspect of the Colisee’s physical layout is the fact that the locker rooms are quite small, especially by today’s standards. This requires the visiting team to spill out past the constraints of the locker room into the hallway under the stands for their exercise bikes, glove racks, skate sharpeners, and other equipment. Fans walking in this area are likely to run into several members of the visiting squad going through their pre-game routines. While this is a charming, old-school type of quirk, it can only be viewed as a nuisance for the players.
The Pirates are a team in limbo for the 2013-2014 season. As a result, the front office is in the unenviable position of trying to market the team to what is potentially a lame-duck market while trying not to alienate their traditional fan base. While attending a Pirates game at the Colisee, it is clearly evident that all references to the city of Portland have been removed from uniforms, team gear, literature, and in-game announcements.
Lewiston is the second largest city in Maine, located 45 minutes northwest of Portland. Its twin city, Auburn is located across the Androscoggin River, and the two cities are usually linked together as a single entity. The combined population of Lewiston/Auburn is roughly 60,000, making it one of the smaller cities in the American Hockey League.
The Colisee is located on the outskirts of the downtown area of Lewiston, a former industrial city on the Androscoggin River. Like many similar cities in the northeast, the downtown area suffered from neglect once the economy faded and businesses closed. The area around the arena is mostly residential, with businesses concentrated along the riverfront.
Fans looking for dining options or lodging in the immediate vicinity of the Colisee will be disappointed, as there is nothing to be found right next to the arena. With Bates College located less than a mile away, the lack of any eateries was fairly surprising. Fans willing to take a short drive to the riverfront in Lewiston or across the river into Auburn will be rewarded by several dining options. In particular, the area around the Auburn mall features several national chain restaurants and hotel chains for the out of town hockey fan. Most fans will opt to stay in Portland, where the options are much more plentiful.
It is a difficult task to assess and grade Pirates fans at this point. Even though the Pirates have committed to play the entire 2013-2014 season in Lewiston, their immediate future is still very much in limbo. Lewiston is located only a 45 minute drive from the Pirates’ fan base in Portland, yet very few of the fans make the drive north on I-95 on a regular basis. Likewise, fans in Lewiston have been slow to embrace the Pirates, as they are most likely only a temporary stop for the team.
The Pirates have averaged only 2500 fans per game through the first three months of the season, ranking the team only 29th out of the 30 AHL teams. The Pirates had a relatively small season ticket holder base while playing in Portland, and less than half of these season ticket holders have renewed their plans for the year in Lewiston.
Interstate 95 runs through Lewiston, connecting travelers to Bangor, located two hours to the north, Portland, 45 minutes to the south, and points beyond. The city of Boston is only a two hour drive from Lewiston. The Oak Street Bus Station offers routes to Bangor and Boston, at which point travelers can connect to other destinations. Although there is a small airport in Auburn, most travelers will choose to fly out of the nearby Portland International Jetport.
The Colisee is located at the edge of the downtown district, and the traveling hockey fan will need to wind through the city streets for approximately a mile before coming to the arena. There are three small lots adjacent to the Colisee for events, and they are more than adequate for a typical Pirate crowd. In addition, there is on-street parking available in the immediate vicinity of the arena, and many locals choose this parking option.
The Box Office is located in an enclosed area at the entrance to the arena. Once inside, fans climb a narrow stairway to enter the newly renovated concourse/food court area. This area contains the majority of the food stands, a small pro shop, and a skate shop. Fans can access the seating area by passing through two vomitories, one on either side of the rink. There is a walkway in the front of the seating bowl that runs around the entire rink. Seats in the first couple of rows can offer obstructed views due to fans passing directly in front of these seats. Luckily, Maine fans know their hockey etiquette and rarely move about during play. Seats consist of individual wooden seats, except for the four corner sections, which consist of metal bleachers without seat backs. The last two rows of the seating bowl are plastic benches which have been crammed into a small space in an attempt to increase capacity. Fans should avoid these seats whenever possible.
Bathrooms are located underneath the seating bowl, accessible by narrow hallways which run parallel on both sides of the rink. There are a men’s and women’s room on each side of the arena. The bathrooms are cramped, but adequate for the size of the crowds at the Colisee.
Fans requiring handicapped seating will be pleasantly surprised by their seating location at the Colisee. Due the the age and layout of the arena, handicapped seating is located directly on the glass!
Return on Investment 4
Tickets for Pirates games cost $12 for adults, and $10 for children and seniors. Purchasing your ticket on game day will add an extra $2 to your price. Parking in the lots adjacent to the arena costs $3, although on-street parking is plentiful and free right next to the Colisee. Many locals choose this option rather than spend the extra cash. With inexpensive concessions, affordable ticket prices, and cheap parking, going to a Pirates game will not break the bank.
For fans interested in the history of the Colisee, there is a reproduction of newspaper articles from the Heavyweight Championship fight held here in 1965. Included in this exhibit is the photograph of Muhammad Ali towering over a fallen Sonny Liston after knocking him out in the first round of their bout. It is one of the most iconic sports photographs of all time, and it is amazing to think the fight took place in an arena so far off the beaten path. This exhibit is worth a look for any sports fan.
A second extra point is awarded for the old-timey feel of a game at the Colisee. It’s not often that fans can get as close to the players during their pregame routines as is possible here. With hockey players being the friendly and accommodating people they are, it is entirely possible for fans to get up close and personal and have conversations with their favorite players before they take the ice.
What’s next for the Pirates? In its current configuration, the Colisee does not measure up as a venue for this level of hockey, and cannot be considered to be a long-term home for the Pirates. As of this writing, there are several rumored potential future homes for Portland’s hockey team:
The Pirates and the Cumberland County Civic Center work out a lease agreeable to both parties, and the Pirates move back into downtown Portland next season.
Enter into a partnership with the Maine Red Claws of the NBA’s Developmental League on the long-awaited Thompson Point Project, allowing the Pirates to move back within Portland City Limits.
The Pirates break ground on a new arena in suburban Saco, adjacent to their current practice facilities.
The Androscoggin Bank Colisee undergoes extensive renovations which allow the Pirates to remain in Lewiston.
The Pirates team with interests in neighboring Biddeford to build a casino/arena complex.
All of these potential sites are located within Portland’s established territory, so Pirate fans need not fear that the Pirates will be moving out of Maine anytime soon. Still, you never know…