BANGOR, Maine — City leaders have resumed interviews with marketing firms to study the sizing needs and financial scope of a new arena, and they hope to make a recommendation later this month.
City Manager Edward Barrett and members of the arena implementation committee met with one firm this week and will interview five more next week before selecting one to conduct a new study.
“There has been interest in moving things along, so I suspect that we will have a direction to go in soon,” Barrett said this week.
Plans for an arena to replace the 54-year-old Bangor Auditorium have been in the works for years but have stalled on multiple occasions. Plans suffered a minor hiccup in February when councilors voted to delay a new study in light of poor economic trends.
They later reversed that decision and agreed to spend up to $75,000 for a new market study, narrowing the goals to identifying a size that best fits the Bangor market, estimating what it would cost and creating alternatives from there.
More specifically, the city hopes to have these questions answered:
ä What is the maximum capital investment the city can make with reasonable assurance that future debt service will be covered by nonproperty tax revenues?
ä What percentage of the market can be served by facilities of various sizes?
ä What size operating subsidy will such facilities require?
ä Is renovating and expanding the existing facilities a feasible option or can new facilities be phased in over time in a way to meet market demand within the city’s fiscal capabilities?
Furthermore, the market study will look at a historical analysis based on the existing auditorium, socioeconomic and demographic data, competing facilities and the feasibility of including retail and-or commercial space.
“Everyone is agreed that we’re not going to build a $100 million facility,” said Councilor Susan Hawes, who also chairs the arena implementation committee. “But we need to know what we can afford and whether we should phase the project, those kinds of things.”
Once a firm is selected, the market study would be completed within a few months, at which point city leaders will have an even bigger decision to make.
City Council Chairman Gerry Palmer, speaking this week at a joint meeting of the Bangor and Brewer city councils, said he’s pleased with the progress.
“We’re at a critical crossroads,” he said. “[Plans] have to be right and they have to be reasonable.”
Palmer also called Hollywood Slots a “miracle,” for providing the steady revenue stream to fund a new arena. So far, the city has nearly $5 million in the bank from the gambling facility that sits across Main Street from the proposed site of a new arena.
Hawes also said the city is absolutely committed to ensuring that any new facility would not be funded on the backs of taxpayers.