From the Senior League World Series and American Folk Festival to Hollywood Slots and the Waterfront Concert Series, Bangor has redefined itself during the last decade as far more than a regional economic center.
Instead the Queen City has shown itself to be full of forward-looking residents who see their hometown as a place that should be all-encompassing, providing not only all the means to raise a family in a comfortable, safe environment, but also within a vibrant center of cultural and educational activity.
Wednesday night’s vote supporting construction of a $65 million arena and civic center complex was nothing short of resounding, as by a 3-to-1 ratio voters determined that replacing the 56-year-old Bangor Auditorium is necessary to enhance the Queen City’s status as a multifacted destination for the populace of northern and eastern Maine as well as visitors from the Canadian Maritimes.
From a sports perspective, the vote ensures a bright future for Bangor as an attractive home for the Eastern Maine high school basketball tournaments as well as other events, with more comfortable conditions and updated amenities for participants and fans alike.
While it’s highly unlikely the facility will land a specific primary sports tenant like a minor-league team, its modernity should be a draw for a wide variety of events that have found the current Auditorium outdated.
And with Mansfield Stadium impeccably maintained for all young baseball players in the region and a fund-raising drive in the works to transform Cameron Stadium into a modern multisport venue, the city should be well-positioned as a hub for the athletic-minded among us for generations to come.
And whatever brings people to Bangor is good for those who make their livings off what the city has to offer — attractions that soon might include the fledgling Maine Basketball Hall of Fame, which is in line to make its home at the new arena.
But with the arena vote completed, the work of the project’s organized backers is nowhere near done. Those who united to support the referendum have pledged to seek out private support for the project, and they must be held to that pledge.
While money from Hollywood Slots revenue and tax-increment financing dollars represent the backbone of the funding, substantial support from the private sector will be critical in making the new facility the centerpiece all Eastern Mainers want it to be.
And there can be no doubt about the degree of that want — the final tally of 4,107 in support of arena construction compared to 1,363 against represents a volume of voters rarely seen for a single-issue referendum and a collective determination that investment in the future is a necessary sacrifice.
The current Bangor Auditorium, opened in 1955, has more than served its purpose — and in fact was past its prime a generation ago.
The memories it has generated for legions of basketball players and fans, as well as those who have witnessed everything from rock concerts to the Shrine Circus or a boat show, will forever remain part of the city’s legacy.
For me that memory is the five-overtime 1986 Eastern Maine Class B final between Dexter and Rockland that ended after midnight after that evening’s doubleheader was delayed an hour and a half by the original leak in the V-shaped roof.
Finally it’s time to build a new Bangor Auditorium that will create new memories and won’t leak for a while.
The ground breaking can’t come soon enough.