City wants Maine basketball hall in Bangor

Posted July 22, 2010, at 10:54 p.m.
Richard Stone was voted by the Bangor City Council as the new chairman of the council. (Bangor Daily News/Gabor Degre)
BDN
Richard Stone was voted by the Bangor City Council as the new chairman of the council. (Bangor Daily News/Gabor Degre)

      BANGOR — Planning for a proposed Maine Basketball Hall of Fame is still in its formative stages, but the city of Bangor would like to be its home.

“I think it’s a natural fit,” said city councilor David Nealley, “and I think the time is right to have these conversations.”

In that spirit, Bangor Mayor Richard I. Stone will attend Friday’s Maine State Basketball Hall of Fame Golf Scramble in Bar Harbor, where he will read a proclamation that not only supports the establishment of a the hall, but further urges “that consideration be given to locating the Hall of Fame in the Queen City of Bangor.”

The scramble, to be held at Kebo Valley Golf Club, is being held in conjunction with the annual K.C. Jones-MDI YMCA Basketball Week, and is expected to include appearances by the former Boston Celtics star player and coach as well as Gov. John E. Baldacci, as well as the presentation “Maine State Basketball Hall of Fame — the Vision.”

The Bangor proclamation stems from a meeting Stone and councilor Rick Bronson recently had with Maine basketball commissioner Peter Webb and former University of Maine men’s basketball coach Skip Chappelle, who are spearheading the effort to create an all-inclusive hall of fame that encompasses the history of basketball all levels in the state.

“It morphed into a ‘what can we do for you type of conversation,’” said Stone, “and we told them we’d love to have them here.”

Stone said that while the proclamation hasn’t been formally approved by the full council, he has shared copies of it with fellow councilors and received “nothing but positive feedback.”

Nealley and Stone are hopeful something can be done in conjunction with the proposed construction of a new arena in the city to replace the aging Bangor Auditorium — which has been home to Eastern Maine basketball tournaments for more than a half-century.

“Basketball has been such an integral part of what that facility is about for all of eastern Maine,” said Nealley, who envisions space for a basketball hall of fame in a new auditorium as an additional drawing card for the proposed facility. “It’s really had an impact on a tremendous number of people and has spanned a lot of generations, and it’s not just about basketball, but the history and legacy of Eastern Maine that we want to preserve.”

The city council recently approved a $763,000 appropriation for costs related to the design of a 7,400-seat arena. Initial estimates from an already concluded market study put the cost of the proposed arena at least $45 million to $50 million, with a revamped civic center costing at least another $12 million to $15 million.

The city council is expected to receive a schematic design for the proposed facility by mid-October, at which time the city will have firm cost estimates and can decide whether to move ahead to construction.

The city has about $7.5 million in Hollywood Slots proceeds saved up to apply to the arena, and it expects to borrow the rest and pay it back through future slots revenue, as well as potential grant funding or private investments.

Plans for the creation of a Maine Basketball Hall of Fame grew out of a series of informal meetings among basketball aficionados on Mount Desert Island during the last year.

Webb recently expressed hope that the inaugural class of the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame would be inducted in 2011, with the anticipation that induction ceremonies would not be held annually but every other year.

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