Bangor arena focus of workshop

Posted Feb. 20, 2010, at 3:36 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Nearly three months after the arena implementation committee emphatically approved a series of recommendations for how Bangor should proceed with a new arena, the City Council is set to weigh in.

Councilors will hold a workshop at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25, to review the recommendations made in early December by the arena committee, and then will make recommendations of their own — perhaps the final step before the project begins.

Thursday’s discussion will center on a study conducted last summer and fall by two firms the city hired to assess the Bangor area market and also outline the economic feasibility. That report led to the arena committee’s recommendations, the centerpiece of which was construction of a 5,400-fixed-seat arena, expandable to 7,400 seats, known as Phase I. A new arena would be built adjacent to the existing Bangor Auditorium and Civic Center in city-owned Bass Park.

The next recommendation, or Phase II, would expand and renovate the existing auditorium and civic center into a variety of convention and meeting spaces.

Both phases have additional, optional elements, including a pedestrian sky-bridge over Main Street and improvements to nearby Paul Bunyan Park.

Consultants have estimated the total cost of Phases I and II at more than $70 million, but Bangor won’t know the exact costs until the project goes out to bid and which pieces are included.

Some councilors remain uneasy about embarking on the largest construction project the city has ever seen during a time of economic uncertainty. Others feel that Bangor has waited far too long and finally has a legitimate funding source that doesn’t involve taxpayer money — Hollywood Slots.

So far, Bangor has banked more than $6 million from its share of slots revenue. When voters approved Maine’s only gambling facility in 2004, they agreed that Bangor’s slots proceeds would fund a new arena.

A decade-long process to replace the more than 50-year-old Bangor Auditorium is closer than it has ever been to fruition.

Among the other recommendations the council will consider Thursday, according to the meeting agenda, are:

ä To begin Phase I as soon as possible and retain Don Dethlefs of Sink, Combs and Dethlefs to develop the architectural plans and specifications.

ä To involve potential facility management firms during the design phase of the project.

ä To investigate and consider using the construction manager at-risk system for the project. If necessary and in order to achieve a Guaranteed Maximum Price that will allow for Phase II to be undertaken sooner, consideration should be given to deferring certain elements of the recommended Phase I project.

ä To continue to explore and pursue additional funding sources, including designating a portion of annual Downtown TIF revenues to the project. Consider financing all or a portion of Phase I and Phase II projects for a period longer than 20 years.

ä To establish an advisory board to ensure that the management firm is held accountable and that adequate oversight is provided.

The city also has set a goal that ground should be broken for Phase I no later than the summer of 2011. Phase II should proceed as quickly as possible, taking into account additional funding sources and other economic factors.

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