Today, we launch The Maine Debate, a new editorial page feature that offers a place for Bangor Daily News readers to exchange ideas and questions about the issues affecting our communities, state and nation.
This week, we consider the proposal to build a new arena in Bangor. The city’s voters will go to the polls on Wednesday, May 4, to choose whether to move ahead with the $65 million project.
Tuesday, from 10 a.m. to noon, arena backers Mark Woodward and John Porter and opponents Bob Cimbollek and others will be online in the comment space below to answer your questions.
Here are brief summaries of the cases for and against the arena plan.
For more than a decade, our city has wanted to replace the outdated, 55-year-old auditorium and the inadequate Civic Center. Now, through the convergence of low interest rates on bonds and a favorable construction environment, the city can build a right-sized arena and convention center for $65 million with no impact on local property taxpayers. Based on conservative financial projections, the facility can be fully funded over the term of the bonds with fees and taxes paid by Hollywood Slots.
Approximately 1,500 people, at least half of them living within 35 miles of Bangor, will be employed during construction. After the doors open, more than 400 new jobs will be created and an estimated $26 million in new annual economic activity will ripple through our community.
The existing auditorium and civic center are beyond repair. A modern, right-sized arena will attract exhibitions, performers and athletics to a facility in which we can all take pride, while the convention center brings new business to the Bangor region.
On Wednesday, May 4, Bangor voters can choose to create a vibrant, energized local economy for the next generation. Voting for the arena and convention center makes a confident statement: — Mark Woodward
The common thread that has driven the opposition is the belief that the current arena plan is too costly. I submit the following questions and statements presented to us by other Bangor citizens who plan to vote “no” on May 4.
Do we need a new arena and how will it benefit me? Who pays for the bond indebtedness if Slots revenue continues to decline? Why are there no plans for the arena to be self-sustaining?
Can Bangor afford a 20- or even 30-year bond?
Why are Bangor taxpayers on the hook for 30 years while the rest of the region gets a pass? What happens to the revenue stream when two to four new gambling facilities open? Do we want to spend $65 million to create only a few full-time jobs?
Wouldn’t we be better off with only building a convention and meeting facility? Why are we not following the ERA/AECOM recommendations of doing this project in phases?
Why was Portland able to come up with private funding for a proposed $100 million complex? Why not Bangor? Will central and northern Maine residents be able to keep us afloat once there is competition with southern Maine?
We have a big decision to make on May 4.
— Pauline Civiello