Portland pro soccer team officially has a place to play
Portland has officially cleared the way for a professional soccer team to play within the city.
The City Council unanimously approved a new five-year lease agreement for Portland United to use Fitzpatrick Stadium as the team's home field, with the option for additional extensions.
The question over where a prospective team might play has been hanging over the city for a few years. Portland High School currently plays at Fitzpatrick Stadium, and some residents worried that a professional team playing on a city-owned field would disrupt public access to a community space. Others doubted that the stadium agreement offered a good deal for Portland.
But high school and collegiate soccer players from Portland and Lewiston packed the council chambers Monday night and said they were eager to share the stadium with professionals. And many said the prospect of a local team was especially inspiring to them as recent immigrants to Maine.
"I think it's really important for us kids and the younger generation to look up to new aspiring professionals, especially local professionals," said Rion Dos Santos, who plays soccer for Saint Joseph's College.
The team will use the field at no cost for the first 10 years, on the condition that it will make at least $1 million in improvements to the existing stadium. Ethan Hipple, Portland's director of parks, recreation and facilities management director, said the agreement offers some new benefits that differ from the city's leases with other professional sports teams.
"We're collecting parking revenue," Hipple said of the new lease agreement. "For some of our other agreements we collect the revenue, but we don't keep the net proceeds. We wanted to make a change. We got the team to agree to that, so I think that's a win for the city. We also get a share of advertising."
The United Soccer League named Portland as an expansion site earlier this year, following a five-year effort by a group of former local soccer players and other investors to bring a team to the city.