Throughout this week, thousands will flock to the Bangor Auditorium, for more than 50 years the traditional home of basketball in eastern and northern Maine.
On the way there, they will pass the future home of basketball, the new arena now under construction and due to open in the fall of 2013.
In that new arena may rest the repository of basketball history in Maine, in the form of the proposed Maine Basketball Hall of Fame.
Basketball is the sport that Mainers have taken most to heart, yet there’s no home for its history.
“There’s not a town in Maine that hasn’t been touched by basketball,” said Peter Webb, who has been Maine’s commissioner of basketball for the past 22 years. “There’s Halls of Fame for everything, but not for the sport that’s king. We want to make sure that basketball’s history is preserved.”
Webb added that there’s a need to gather the materials needed for the Hall of Fame soon.
`It’s vital we do it now,” he said. “In another 10 years, what we want to do will be much more difficult.”
Webb is one of the organizers of the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame, along with Skip Chappelle, former Fort Fairfield and University of Maine coach, who as a player at Old Town High School played in the first regular-season high school game at the Bangor Auditorium back in 1955.
Chappelle sees the new arena as the natural place for such a hall.
“We’re talking about capturing the last hundred years of basketball in the state, and history says that Bangor is at the center of it,” he has said.
Organizers are now working with members of the Friends of the Maine Center and Bangor city officials to determine what form the hall will eventually take. The Friends are a citizens’ group who came together in 2010 to assist and support the Bangor City Council in the effort to build a new arena and convention center.
A. Mark Woodward, former executive editor at the Bangor Daily News and Friends spokesman and co-chairman with Miles Theeman, cautioned that it’s very early in the process for the arena and the proposed hall. Still he feels the two have a shared destiny.
“There’s a powerful connection between people in this state and basketball,” Woodward said. “The key is for us to capture that and capitalize on that. The arena is the right place for [the hall], since its predecessor was the center of so many great moments in basketball.”
Having the hall inside the arena would help to make the new facility more diversified, Woodward added.
“We hope to be part of the dialogue of how this arena should be designed,” he said. “The design could be tweaked to accommodate an arena the city of Bangor can be proud of. It would be something to bring people to that facility when there isn’t a major event there.”
Woodward, Steve Pound of the Hall of Fame organizing committee and Bass Park Director Mike Dyer recently walked through the current auditorium, with an eye toward items that could be sold as memorabilia, with the funds pumped back into the facility, pending City Council approval.
Woodward used that story to illustrate how many steps must be taken before the arena and the Hall of Fame can be joined together: “We’ve got to finalize the design, find out what space is allocated [for the hall], gather and sell the artifacts.
“There is support for this on the council, and we’ve had constructive conversations with city officials,” he continued. “There’s still a lot of things we need to work through, the most important being to sit down with the council and get its approval to move forward. This project seems like a natural for the new arena, but it’s still the City of Bangor’s building and we will adhere to whatever the council prescribes for us if we are allowed to proceed.”