Arena construction on schedule as phase two nears

The Paul Bunyan statue and the aging Bangor Auditorium bookend the construction site for the future arena in Bangor Nov. 8, 2011.
John Clarke Russ
The Paul Bunyan statue and the aging Bangor Auditorium bookend the construction site for the future arena in Bangor Nov. 8, 2011. Buy Photo
Posted Nov. 08, 2011, at 2:10 p.m.
Last modified Nov. 08, 2011, at 8:38 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Jon DiCentes looked down and shook his head with a slight grin on his face when asked the question he hears only about 20 times a day.

“So, are you on schedule?”

Cianbro Corp.’s senior project manager and the man in charge of the ongoing construction of the Bangor arena and events center says it’s hard for people watching webcam footage on their computers or taking a look while waiting for the Main Street traffic lights to change to see a lot of progress.

It has been a little more than two months since Cianbro broke ground on the project, but most of that time has been spent on site preparation with earth-moving equipment, pouring about 2,000 of an estimated 7,000 yards of concrete and infrastructural work such as installing utilities, plumbing and piping, power conduits and elevator shafts.

“Right now a lot of people who don’t understand construction don’t understand how much work has gone into it,” said DiCentes, a Sherman Mills native now living in Hampden. “All they see is a huge dirt pile, but the most critical part of the project is being done as we speak. The foundation has got to be perfect.”

The arena and events and convention center, costing approximately $65 million and replacing the Bangor Auditorium, is scheduled to open Labor Day weekend in 2013.

“We’re well into concrete foundations and all the site infrastructure under the building slabs. Foundations for the arena will be complete the first part of December and foundations for the convention center will be complete before the end of the year,” DiCentes said. “What we’re really prepping for is steel erection for the massive superstructure. That’s when people will see a huge difference in the project and see the big equipment like cranes.”

Currently, there are 70 workers active on site, but that number will decrease to around 30 as work shifts primarily to steel and erection of the framework of the facility during the coldest months of the year.

“We’ll be setting steel all winter long, full speed ahead,” DiCentes said. “We’re on schedule. We planned on starting structural steel Dec. 12 a year ago when we were doing presentations to the City Council, and we’re still at that date.”

Some people watching progress on the webcam Cianbro provides on its website have noticed a large concrete footing that has been uncovered. Some wondered if that might be used as part of the new foundation.

“That’s an existing concrete footing and pier that holds up the exposed column that holds up the big wing,” said DiCentes, 37. “There’s no way to use that as part of the current construction though.”

It’s questions like that which make DiCentes proud and excited to be part of the arena project.

“There is a sense of excitement about this project,” he said. “There’s a lot of personal investment in this project, but there’s also a lot of good people in Maine too with good work ethics involved in it.”

It’s that sense of investment and interest that makes the hours the married father of two children (ages 3 and 6) more tolerable. He hasn’t had a lot of time to spend with his family due to the demands of the project and work days that typically start around 4 or 5 a.m. and sometimes last until 8 or 9 p.m. — six days a week.

“I live in Hampden and I’m from Northern Maine, so February vacation time was always a big time for us with the tournament and making trips down here,” he said. “The auditorium has a lot of memories for a lot of people, but all buildings have a useful life span and that building’s useful life span is over.

“We have no room for growth there. Bangor has a rich history of being first in a lot of things and this is a great opportunity and a good time to build it.”

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