City contracts with Cianbro for arena

Posted May 17, 2010, at 9:31 p.m.
A woman looks at a program while standing near a tangle of cords and wires, some held together with duct tape, on the floor of the Bangor Auditorium on Saturday afternoon during an Eastern Maine Class B high school basketball quarterfinal game. Despite the deteriorating condition of the auditorium, built in 1955, most fans concur that it is the best place in the state to watch basketball.  BANGOR DAILY NEWS FILE PHOTO BY BRIDGET BROWN
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A woman looks at a program while standing near a tangle of cords and wires, some held together with duct tape, on the floor of the Bangor Auditorium on Saturday afternoon during an Eastern Maine Class B high school basketball quarterfinal game. Despite the deteriorating condition of the auditorium, built in 1955, most fans concur that it is the best place in the state to watch basketball. BANGOR DAILY NEWS FILE PHOTO BY BRIDGET BROWN

BANGOR, Maine — The city has decided to stay in its own backyard by hiring Cianbro Corp. of Pittsfield to handle all preconstruction services associated with the design and building of a new arena.

Members of the City Council’s finance committee approved staff recommendations at a meeting Monday, and they will go to the full council next week, when it is expected to receive final approval. The contract will cost the city $175,000, but that total will be applied to the overall cost of construction should the project eventually move forward.

Finance Director Debbie Cyr, who oversaw the bid process for preconstruction services — which includes general administration, design review, scheduling, cost control and constructability analysis — stressed that the contract with Cianbro does not commit the city to the project.

“The city can decide to stop at any point in time,” she said.

Earlier this year, the city approved a set of recommendations by the arena implementation committee, the centerpiece of which was a proposed 5,400-fixed seat arena, expandable to 7,400 seats, and renovated meeting and conference space.

One recommendation by the arena committee was for the city to employ what is known as a construction manager at-risk approach. That construction manager — Cianbro — now becomes the point contact for the project and is expected to work hand in hand with the architect.

City councilors also approved a contract with the architectural firm of Sink, Combs and Dethlefs of Colorado to complete the design work. The same firm participated in the extensive market study conducted last year. The terms of that contract and its total cost to the city have not yet been completed.

Once the design work is finished, the construction manager would be expected to return to the city with concrete cost estimates and a guaranteed maximum cost.

Cyr said that of the five firms interviewed for preconstruction services Cianbro and the Hunt Group of Indianapolis emerged as finalists. Although the Hunt Group had much more experience with arena construction, Cyr said Cianbro is in a better position to handle the significant local and regional impact of a project of this magnitude.

John Simpson, a Bangor resident with more than 40 years of contracting experience, served on the committee that interviewed the five firms and supported Cianbro.

“They have skin in the game locally,” he said, adding that Cianbro CEO Peter Vigue could be a powerful spokesman for the project, particularly in trying to gain private financial support.

Estimates for phase I of the project — the new arena — range from $40 million to $55 million depending on a number of variables. Phase II of the project — renovated conference and meeting space — is expected to cost $10 million to $15 million.

So far, the city has saved $7.5 million of its local share of revenue from Hollywood Slots, the state’s only gaming facility, which also was constructed by Cianbro. Earlier this year, the city contracted with Eastern Maine Development Corp. to help raise additional funds toward the construction of a new arena and civic center.

Norbert Young, who recently was hired by Cianbro, will lead the arena project. Originally from Maine, Young has decades of experience in managing sports-related projects, including all the construction associated with the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

Councilor Gerry Palmer, a longtime supporter for a new arena, said he was an unabashed fan of Cianbro.

“They are always under-budget and on time,” said Palmer, who is not a member of the finance committee but attended Monday’s meeting. “If we don’t continue to move this forward, no one in the private sector will want to invest.”

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