BANGOR — The upcoming vote by city residents on whether to proceed with the construction of a new arena and conference center to replace the aging Bangor Auditorium will have a significant impact on the region’s future.
It also may play a role in preserving part of its past.
Efforts have been under way for more than a year to find a home for the fledgling Maine Basketball Hall of Fame, and the proposed new Bangor arena has emerged as a likely destination if voters on Wednesday approve going forward with the estimated $65 million project.
“What we’re saying is as far as the history of basketball in the state, especially at tourney time, this is where it’s at,” said Skip Chappelle, a fixture on the Maine basketball scene as a player and coach for more than five decades and one of the chief organizers of the basketball hall of fame effort along with Maine basketball commissioner Peter Webb.
“We’re talking about capturing the last hundred years of basketball in the state, and history says that Bangor is at the center of it.”
City officials has been supportive of efforts to base a Maine Basketball Hall of Fame within a new Bangor arena, with at least one proclamation issued last June urging “that consideration be given to locating the Hall of Fame in the Queen City of Bangor.”
“There’s a great tradition of basketball in the Bangor Auditorium, with the Eastern Maine tournaments John Bapst [high school], Bangor High School back when they used to play here, as well as the statewide games,” said Bangor City Councilor Rick Bronson. “It’s really helped to develop a sense of community among us, and we want that to continue.
“Having a basketball hall of fame here would help to further establish that going forward. It would be good for basketball and good for the building because we don’t have a prime tenant like a professional team. Our prime tenant is basketball and all the tradition that goes with it.”
City officials, arena architects and hall of fame organizers have worked together to identify space on the concourse level of the proposed facility’s design to house a Maine Basketball Hall of Fame, though ultimately any such plans depend on Wednesday’s vote.
“To some degree we have to wait and see what happens,” Bronson said.
Chappelle — whose personal basketball history at the current Bangor Auditorium ranges from playing in the first regular-season high school game at the facility between his Old Town team and Bangor in 1955 to coaching the University of Maine men’s squad there in 1981 against a nationally No. 1-ranked DePaul team featuring future NBA stars Mark Aguirre and Terry Cummings — said private efforts are under way to furnish and maintain any space that becomes available for the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame.
Different scenarios sketched out for having the hall located within a new Bangor arena would require an initial private investment of between $30,000 and $100,000 in funds and-or in-kind contributions, he said.
Chappelle added that the Cianbro Corp. on Thursday pledged an in-kind donation dedicated to the interior of a Maine Basketball Hall of Fame within a new Bangor arena.
Plans for the development of a Maine Basketball Hall of Fame grew out of a series of informal meetings among basketball aficionados on Mount Desert Island some two years ago, followed last spring by the passage of a joint resolution by the Maine Legislature in support of the endeavor, which not only would focus on recognizing contributors to the sport but also serve as a central point for collecting the history of basketball in Maine.
Organizers envision an “all-inclusive” hall of fame featuring numerous categories encompassing all levels of the sport in the state, a format modeled after the New England Basketball of Fame. Plans call for the establishment of 16 county-based committees to serve as primary resources for identifying potential inductees and gathering information on candidates.
“We’re well on the way with a board of directors, and we’ve got a website up and running with information about the hall of fame,” said Chappelle.
Chappelle added that in addition to information, memorabilia displays and other components that reflect the history of basketball in Maine, the hall of fame also would include the latest information on present-day activities within the sport.
For more information about the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame, access its website at mainebasketballhalloffame.com.
The new arena has a price tag of $65 million and supporters believe the facility is pivotal to Bangor’s economic future. The arena would be funded by Hollywood Slots revenue and tax increment financing district funds. Those opposed to the new facility believe it’s too risky to get consistent revenue from Hollywood Slots, which is a gambling facility.