April 25, 2018
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New Bangor arena makes sense if you look ahead

By Renee Ordway, Special to the BDN

I don’t know about you, but as I brace against these brisk 40-degree days and cuss at the spitting snow in the air I dream of putting my shovel into the ground and preparing it for new growth.

It is time.

Whether you’re a gardener or not, most of us know that nothing will grow as it should without proper preparation, attention and support.

But when those things are in place and the climate and timing are right marvelous things can happen.

That is why it also is time to put shovels to the ground and start to build a new arena and conference center.

The discussion of a new arena has been going on for 10 years. Planning and preparation have been under way for years and debated vigorously. Reports have been commissioned and completed and the data have been scrutinized and adjustments have been made to make it more feasible.

All nine city councilors support a project that has a $65 million price tag on it. That level of consensus for such a big project came after a lot of hard work and study on the part of the council. It did not come easy.

The city has been spending $400,000 to $500,000 a year to maintain and run Bass Park.

Funding for the new arena and conference center would come from Hollywood Slots revenue and a portion from the annual downtown development tax increment financing funds.

Organizers of Arena Yes are also seeking private funding sources, which are more likely to appear after the May 4 vote.

Opponents have most recently resorted to playing upon people’s financial fears and distrust of politicians, saying that politicians lie and Bangor taxpayers should not be swayed by their gimmicks.

“Do you really believe politicians saying it won’t cost you” scream blood-red letters across the black background of the opponents’ website.

Not bad moves and I guess the city councilors are politicians, but check out the names of supporters on the Arena Yes website. Those who are doing the work to get this arena built are businessmen and women. Parents who may like to see the city grow enough and be vibrant enough to draw some of our young people back here to raise their families.

They’re not politicians. They don’t want to see their taxes go up any more than you do.

The business owners of this city pay about 55 percent of its taxes. Tax hikes hurt them just as they do you — yet the overall majority of Bangor business owners support building the new arena.

Why? Because the old auditorium simply cannot attract the entertainment or the business conferences that help keep this community competitive and strong and successful.

A new one will, and most important of all we have a revenue source. Hollywood Slots has been and will continue to be successful. There is little question that gaming tables will soon be added, which is expected only to increase revenues.

The Augusta Civic Center is funded and managed by the city. The Cumberland County Civic Center is funded and managed by Cumberland County.

If we say yes on May 4, Bangor will have the largest and most modern arena and conference center north of Boston. National management firms are gearing up to compete for the rights to manage it, firms that run successful arenas across the country.

They’re not doing that because they think a new arena in Bangor is going to lose money.

The new arena is going to open Bangor’s doors to world class entertainment and will have state of the art facilities to attract business conferences from across the country.

It will provide 400 permanent jobs. The construction phase will result in 1,900 jobs.

This is such an incredible opportunity for this community.

Check out the Arena Yes website. Talk with some of the business owners in your neighborhood.

If not the arena, if not now, then what and when?

It’s time to get out the shovel and dig the hole and see just what kind of marvelous things might happen.

Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

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