Bangor eyes Chicago firm for arena study

By Eric Russell, BDN Staff
Posted April 16, 2009, at 9:54 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The city has selected a Chicago-based company to conduct an updated market study for a new arena, citing the firm’s attention to detail and willingness to bring new ideas to the table.

The decision was made Thursday at a meeting of the arena implementation committee to award the study to ERA/AECOM, which will work with an architect firm, Sink Combs Dethlefs.

The city’s finance committee still needs to approve the recommendation, but if all goes well a new study could be completed within four months, according to Finance Director Debbie Cyr.

“This was a very thorough process,” she said Thursday. “But this study could lead to the largest investment the city ever makes, so we didn’t mind having more information than less.”

City leaders made a decision earlier this year to seek a new market and feasibility study to replace, or perhaps renovate, the existing Bangor Auditorium and Civic Center.

Eleven firms from across the country applied to conduct the study and the city brought in five for in-person interviews. Cyr said ERA/AECOM and its representatives separated themselves from the other possibilities with considerable knowledge of the Bangor market and a willingness to consider reusing at least part of the existing auditorium and civic center.

Evelyn Silver, chair of the arena implementation committee’s marketing subcommittee, said she was impressed with the Chicago firm’s expertise working in small- and medium-sized markets.

“They were conservative in their approach,” she said. “They don’t want to overbuild, which is comforting.”

Silver also said that ERA/AECOM showed initiative by considering a new arena in the context of other amenities in the immediate area, including Bass Park, the golf course, the harness racing track and, of course, Hollywood Slots.

Jon Johnson, general manager of Hollywood Slots and a member of the arena implementation committee, said he was pleased that ERA/AECOM had experience working with representatives of the gaming industries.

So far, the only funding source for a new arena is revenue generated from Hollywood Slots. Since the facility opened in 2005, the city has earned more than $5 million toward a new arena, according to Cyr.

Approximately $75,000 of that will pay for the study, which is expected to determine exactly what size arena Bangor could sustain, as well as an approximation of what it would cost. Cyr said a key resource in data gathering would be surveys from those who have used the Bangor Auditorium in the past, but also those who have not for various reasons.

http://bangordailynews.com/2009/04/16/news/bangor-eyes-chicago-firm-for-arena-study/ printed on December 27, 2014