Lewiston Colisee struggling but surviving without hockey team

Posted Sept. 09, 2011, at 5:34 a.m.

LEWISTON, Maine — Before the city again roots for its own hockey team, the downtown arena is diversifying with more concerts, a sampling of hockey and some specialty shows.

It’s getting by, Colisee owner Jim Cain said Thursday.

A metal rock concert scheduled for December will be announced next week. On Monday, tickets will go on sale for a Halloween concert and costume contest on Oct. 29 hosted by Nick Knowlton and featuring local musicians. And, five games are scheduled by teams from the Single-A Federal Hockey League.

Among the games scheduled are a contest between the Akwesasne Warriors and the Brooklyn Aviators on Oct. 22, and the Cape Cod Blue Fins skating against the Green Mountain Rock Crushers on Dec. 29.

“We’ll do OK,” Cain said. “We’ll survive and all that kind of stuff. We won’t do as well as we want to, but that will happen the next year.”

Cain hopes to sign a deal for a new Lewiston-based franchise in the coming months, with regular hockey set to restart at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in the 2012-13 season, he said.

“We’re working hard at all levels to bring this thing about late this fall,” Cain said. Any deal will likely be with a junior-level hockey team much like the Lewiston Maineiacs, a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team that left in June. The team’s logo, with it’s smiling, gap-toothed player, still greets visitors to the arena.

But those reminders will come down as Cain closes in on a new deal.

“It’s going well, given the timetable that we had to work with,” Cain said. “Obviously, with the Maineiacs announcement in June that they were sold, it gave us no time to get a replacement team from any league anywhere for this fall season. We have had to do the best we can.”

This summer, Cain spent about $100,000 on maintenance at the Colisee, he said. Workers replaced all of the outside doors, painted extensively and installed new carpeting.

“You’re doing all that stuff, when under normal conditions, you would enjoy having a tenant who would bring new people into the building on a consistent basis,” Cain said. Crowds help pay for the work.

So, he’s trying to bring in the crowds.

First up is the Maine Home Show on Sept. 24 and 25. Also on Sept. 25, the arena will host the party band Pretty Lights. They’ll be followed by Knowlton’s event, which will feature his band Terry and the Telstars, the Girls of LA and the trio Vegetables by Day.

“We’re expecting big things from Nick,” Cain said.

Knowlton is, too.

He’s garnered hundreds of dollars in prizes in hopes of drawing 1,500 people to the state’s biggest costume contest, he said. Tickets go on sale at 9 a.m. Monday with a price of $20 in advance and $25 at the door.

And when that event is done, he plans to crank up publicity and sales for a posh New Year’s Eve event at the Colisee. That, too, will feature Vegetables By Day and Knowlton’s Telstars, who reunited last year. The band has begun playing a variety of local gigs including the recent benefit dance for Museum L-A, held atop a downtown parking garage.

“We’re having the time of our lives,” Knowlton said.

The special events can be lucrative and fun, but the Colisee does nothing as well as hockey, Cain said. That’s where his focus lies. And though he has about a dozen business properties including arenas in the Buffalo area, he spends about half of his time at the Colisee.

Already signed for the coming year are youth hockey events, including high school playoffs. Cain hopes to bring the Portland Pirates to Lewiston for a pair of games, he said.

“We’re (also) looking at bringing back the University of Maine women’s hockey team,” he said.

But he needs a franchise that can bring in crowds for 40 or more events. It’s part of the economics that keep a part-time staff of 40 people in place.

“We’ve been working on that since the first of June,” Cain said.

One possibility for next fall is the creation of a new division of junior hockey that would be affiliated with U.S. leagues based in the Northwest. Another would be the creation of a federal league team here in Lewiston, if fans show enough support for the monthly games scheduled to begin in October.

Either way, Cain and his family will make it work.

“This is a family business,” he said. His son, Mike, runs the day-to-day operation of the Colisee. Cain’s wife handles the food and beverage side of the business.

“We get things done,” he said.

To read more of the Sun Journal, visit sunjournal.com.

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