Pro Soccer Team Trades $1M in Stadium Upgrades for 10 Years of Free Rent

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A new professional soccer team in Portland, Maine, will compete at the city's Fitzpatrick Stadium rent free for 10 years in exchange for $1 million in club-financed capital improvements to the venue. 

The city of Portland unanimously approved the deal, with the lease starting Feb. 1, 2024, even though the team won't play its inaugural season in the United Soccer League One until 2025. 

“This is supported by the city and something we’ve worked on for a long time and it’s now supported by the city council unanimously,” Gabe Hoffman-Johnson, a founding investor and the president of Portland United, which has also operated under the working title of USL to Portland, told the Portland Press Herald. “We owe a large debt of gratitude to the city staff.”

The lease agreement runs for five years, and the club will have two five-year renewal options. If the club does renew for years 11-15, rental fees for Fitzpatrick will be assessed per the agreement. 

The club has agreed to contribute $200,000 toward a new artificial turf field for public use at a yet-to-be-determined location. That project would begin in 2026. 

Ethan Hipple, director of the city's parks department, said rental fees for the club's expected first season, including 25 home games, would have been approximately $128,000, with annual increases. 

According to the Press Herald, opponents of the lease agreement felt the city was making a mistake in forgoing the rental revenue. The city estimates the lost revenue from not charging rental fees will trigger an approximately 1 cent increase in the property tax rate.

Hipple said the club plans to make. improvements to lighting, locker rooms, the press box, ticket entrance and sound and broadcasting capabilities. The city will also get all net parking revenue and 15 percent of signage revenue, which will provide an increase of approximately $30,000 in revenue to the city in the first year that the team plays games.

“We spent several years negotiating and we have some things in that aren’t included with our older agreements with the Sea Dogs and the Celtics. We don’t get parking revenue for those,” Hipple said.

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