May 23, 2018
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Firm to study market for Bangor arena

By Eric Russell, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — A representative from a Chicago-based marketing firm is spending the week in Bangor, meeting with various stakeholders about the possibility of a new arena and civic center.

David Stone, a senior associate with ERA/AECOM, also met with editorial staff of Bangor Daily News to outline what he sees as his firm’s role in the process.

“We’re tasked with determining the market for a new facility,” Stone said Wednesday inside the existing Bangor Civic Center in Bass Park. “We’ll do that through research with users and potential promoters and anyone else who wants to offer input. That will lead us to some recommendations for the city, some estimates of what those recommendations will cost and even some preliminary designs.”

City councilors last month selected ERA/AECOM over several other potential firms to conduct a market study. The last study was conducted in 2002, but its findings were not as pragmatic as councilors would have liked and they decided to commission a new study.

Stone said his firm always errs on the conservative side in its suggestions, but he also said Bangor has many options.

“There are a lot of what I would call moving parts,” he said. “It’s just a matter of finding the sweet spot.”

City Council Chair Gerry Palmer said he is happy to see ERA/AECOM taking a measured, realistic approach.

“We want to be practical, sensible. We do not want to overbuild,” he said.

Among those options will be demolishing the existing Bangor Auditorium and Civic Center and replacing both. Another could be replacing just the auditorium and renovating the civic center.

From what he’s seen so far, though, Stone said both the decades-old auditorium and civic center are lacking.

“The quality of the civic center space is not great; there’s no kitchen,” he said. “Similarly, the quality of the auditorium is not great. But, I think the staff here does very well with what they do have.”

One potential bonus, Stone said, was the neighboring Hollywood Slots facility, which so far is the only stream of revenue for a new arena.

“It’s not uncommon for gaming revenue to be earmarked for these types of development,” he said. “But we’re going to explore other sources of funding as well.”

Palmer agreed that Hollywood Slots probably can’t be the only funding source, but he said $5 million already is in the bank. He also said the land in Bass Park where a new arena and civic center would be built is worth up to $1 million.

From a marketing perspective, the slots facility and adjoining hotel provide an amenity that can be used to lure events to a new civic center or arena.

Another potential advantage, Stone said, is timing. If the city can move things along quickly enough and get the project on to bid, it could mean a favorable price.

“It’s a great time because everybody wants the work,” he said.

Stone and other staff members with ERA/AECOM will spend several weeks conducting market research and preparing a study for the city. A report likely will be presented to city staff and councilors sometime this summer, at which point Bangor leaders will have a big decision to make.

“We’ve got a ways to go, but there’s no better time to be doing this,” Palmer said.

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