BANGOR, Maine — Despite some last-minute lobbying, city councilors on Monday voted to enter into negotiations with Pennsylvania-based Global Spectrum for management services of Bangor’s new arena and convention center.
The details of a contract between Global Spectrum and the city — including the length of the partnership and the financial implications — will be ironed out in the coming months before the matter goes back to the council for another vote.
The city’s goal has been to have a private management firm in place before construction of a new facility begins and for the firm to work closely with architect Don Dethlefs of Colorado and construction company Cianbro Corp. of Pittsfield. A groundbreaking on the estimated $65 million arena and convention center complex, which was approved by Bangor voters last month, could come later this summer once the city receive final cost projections from its builder.
Over the last two months, a special selection committee made up of city staff and Councilor Nelson Durgin reviewed proposals from three firms — Global Spectrum, SMG and Venuworks — that have experience managing similar-sized facilities.
The committee quickly ruled out Venuworks because most of its clients were in the Midwest.
However, Finance Director Debbie Cyr, in a memo to councilors recommending Global Spectrum, said it was virtually indistinguishable from SMG, a firm also based in Greater Philadelphia.
Durgin told fellow councilors Monday that he rated SMG slightly above Global Spectrum, even though he sided with the committee in its recommendation.
Tim Woodcock with Eaton Peabody, a local law firm representing SMG, said for such a big decision, the city needed to consider the options more closely.
“It’s difficult to read [this memo] and determine why the choice was made,” he said.
Todd Glickman, a vice president with Global Spectrum, a subsidiary of cable and Internet giant Comcast, said his company has been eyeing the Bangor market for almost a decade and was eager come on board.
After discussing the recommendation at a special finance committee meeting Monday and then again at the regular council meeting, councilors vote 8-1 to begin negotiating with Global Spectrum. Councilor Gerry Palmer voted in opposition because he thought the council could take a little more time to consider the two finalists.
Every other councilor, however, was comfortable and confident with the recommendation.
“We can’t second-guess a committee that put all this time in,” Councilor Pat Blanchette said.
Global Spectrum and SMG often go head to head when municipalities along the East Coast are looking for private arena management firms.
Global Spectrum manages several similar-sized arenas in New England, including the Tsongas Center in Lowell, Mass., the Mullins Center in Amherst, Mass. and the Ryan Center in Kingston, R.I.
Similarly, SMG manages the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, R.I., the DCU Center Arena in Worcester, Mass., and the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, N.H.
Bangor’s proposed arena calls for 5,800 fixed seats with a maximum capacity of 8,050 for concerts and other events. The convention center would replace the existing civic center and would include a variety of meeting spaces and a much-needed industrial kitchen.
Many believe it could be the premier venue in the state for conferences and conventions, but councilors have said hiring a firm such as Global Spectrum is the crucial piece to ensuring success.
A private management firm has a broad network of industry contacts to draw from, as well as the ability to block-book events with other facilities it manages, and name-brand leverage.
In its proposal to Bangor, Global Spectrum outlined potential partnerships with the Greater Bangor Convention and Visitors Bureau and with promoters of the Waterfront Concerts, who have enjoyed success on the city’s waterfront. Glickman, the firm’s vice president, said advertising and marketing efforts will be crucial to ensuring the facility’s long-term success.