Group touts economic impact of proposed new Bangor arena

Posted Nov. 19, 2010, at 12:03 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — With detailed plans and firm cost projections in place, the Greater Bangor business community is lining up to lend its full-throated support for a new arena complex.

Cost of doing business Bangor arena complex projected at $70M-$80M
City councilors finally have a cost to wrap their heads around before making one of the biggest financial decisions in Bangor’s history.

Friends of the Maine Center, a group of prominent area community and business leaders, held an event on Friday to release an economic impact study that predicts a new arena and civic center would generate $26 million in local revenue every year. The study also estimated a new complex could create 405 full-time jobs.

“This can be an economic engine far into the future,” said Mark Woodward, former executive editor of the Bangor Daily News and a founding member of the friends group. “A new arena complex will be an expression of confidence we all share in our community.”

Miles Theeman, another founding member, said that in the last year, as many as 30 events which could have been held in Bangor were turned away because the current facilities are inadequate.

City councilors met Thursday with architect Don Dethlefs and members of Cianbro, the project’s construction manager, to learn the hard costs of building an arena complex to replace the aging Bangor Auditorium and Civic Center. For just the arena, it would cost the city $57 million. A new convention center, built on the footprint of the existing auditorium, would cost another $14 million. Additional amenities — two sky bridges over Main Street and Dutton Street and a meeting building — would bring the total cost to approximately $80 million.

The high cost has been the biggest challenge for the city. So far, the only revenue source is Bangor’s share of proceeds from Hollywood Slots. That pot of money currently totals about $10 million and is projected to generate between $2.5 million and $3 million annually.

Most city and business leaders agree that slots revenue alone won’t cover the cost, but Theeman and Woodward said they are confident of private sector support.

“The consistent message we’ve heard from the business community is that when the city and citizens make a decision, [business leaders] will step up,” Theeman said.

City councilors are expected to discuss the cost projections and finances at a meeting next Monday. Cianbro project executive Norbert Young told officials on Thursday that, in order to ensure the construction’s aggressive timeline and to ensure costs don’t increase, the city needs to make a decision by January 2011. Cianbro has said the total project would take 32 months, assuming that ground is broken in May 2011.

A group of Bangor residents, led by Bob Cimbollek, has pledged to initiate a petition drive to put the final decision out to voters. Their effort could push back the project’s timeline.

Editor’s Note: Bangor Daily News publisher Richard Warren is a member of the Friends of the Maine Center.

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