New arena for Bangor is long overdue

Posted May 03, 2011, at 7:49 p.m.
Last modified May 04, 2011, at 9:34 a.m.

On Wednesday, Bangor voters will decide whether they want a new Bangor Auditorium-Civic Center. I will vote an emphatic “yes.”

With all the positive developments in Bangor over the last dozen years, why would anybody want to derail the construction of a badly needed auditorium-civic center?

It is 56 years old and could eventually be closed. Then what?

I understand the opponents are worried about their taxes going up and some feel the money could be used for other projects like education and road improvements.  

But the Bangor Auditorium-Civic Center is the centerpiece of the city and losing the money generated from the use of a facility that holds events like the high school basketball tournaments, the Shrine Circus, concerts and various home and garden shows would be significantly detrimental to the economy.

Jobs would be lost.

The building and running of a new arena would add more than 1,000 temporary and full-time jobs.

In 38 years, I’ve never tired of covering basketball tournament games because of the unparalleled atmosphere at the Auditorium.

The tournament dates are circled on calendars all across eastern Maine.

Coming to Bangor for the basketball tournaments has become a highlighted ritual.

It’s amazing that schools with 120 students can bring such a large throng of fans.

Fans get to renew acquaintances with friends and relatives and take advantage of shopping or dining opportunities that don’t exist in their towns. It also gives them an opportunity to try their luck at Hollywood Slots.

Having the games in a new state-of-the-art auditorium would be even better and would put Bangor a leg up on Portland (Cumberland County Civic Center) and Augusta (the Augusta Civic Center), whose facilities were built in the 1970s.

Portland is looking at renovating the CCCC for $27 million-$29 million.

Bangor’s new auditorium-civic center would cost $65 million.

The city will borrow $57.6 million over a 30-year period and use $7 million as a down payment. The annual debt service would be around $3.7 million per year, according to Bangor Finance Director Debbie Cyr.

Hollywood Slots would be the primary revenue source as the city receives 3 percent of net revenue from Hollywood Slots and that works out to $2.3 million-$3.4 million per year. The city’s downtown tax increment financing produces $2 million in property taxes annually and that translates to $750,000 per year toward the auditorium project.

In addition, the Arena Yes consortium would seek private funding.

And, remember, Hollywood Slots appears to have a legitimate shot to gain gaming tables to go with its slot machines since the Oxford casino was approved.

One opponent said he thinks the Oxford casino could cut significantly into Hollywood Slots’ business. I don’t agree. They are far enough apart to attract a separate clientele.

A new auditorium-civic center could also attract more acts.

This would be a natural evolution for Bangor’s thriving events schedule and progressive ideology.

The city has embraced the Senior League World Series, which brings players and families from all over the world to Bangor, as well as the popular American Folk Festival and the Kah-Bang concert event.

And dynamic young entrepreneur Alex Gray has burst onto the scene and done a remarkable job booking big-name acts for his Bangor Waterfront Concert series.

Even if our taxes go up, it would be minimal, and having a new auditorium-civic center would be well worth it.

So get out to vote and vote “yes.”

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