BANGOR, Maine — Woodrow Cross, patriarch of the Bangor-based insurance agency that bought naming rights for the new arena, took his seat in Seat 1, Section 111, of the new $65 million arena and convention center during a small ceremony on Tuesday afternoon.
“Very nice, very comfy,” Cross said when asked how the padded chair felt. “It’s a nice seat.”
Plastic covers were pulled off the nearly 6,000 seats on Friday, and Cross was invited to be the first person to sit in an arena seat, according to Mike Dyer, general manager of the facility. All seats in the arena were provided by Berwick-based Hussey Seating, he said.
Cross pressed a button to bring out the telescopic seats and Dyer and City Council Chairman Nelson Durgin helped Cross, 96, up the two steps and into his chair.
Durgin, Dyer and other city and arena officials eventually sat alongside Cross for pictures.
City officials thanked Cross for his contribution to the arena effort.
“This is going to be another boost for our economy, and I think it’s going to mean more jobs for Bangor,” Durgin said, adding that this would continue the trend of creating an entertainment hub in Bangor — a trend that started a decade ago with the arrival of the National Folk Festival.
Cross Insurance Agency signed a $3 million, 15-year naming deal for the new arena last summer.
“We decided we wanted to be a part of it,” Cross said. “We made a decision and haven’t regretted it since.”
Cross founded his company in 1954, a year before the old Bangor Auditorium, which is being demolished, opened its doors.
The new arena can fit about 8,500 seats for concerts when seats are set up on the stadium floor, according to arena officials. The venue’s first events likely will be announced later this month, according to Todd Stoudenmire, assistant general manager of the arena.
The Cross Insurance Center will host its first “soft opening” event, Bangor High School’s graduation ceremony, this Sunday. Stoudenmire said as many as 4,000 people are expected to attend. Each graduating student was given 20 tickets, he said.
The graduation stage and chairs already were set up on Tuesday.
The arena is complete, with the exception of minor touch-ups, Stoudenmire said. Crews are working to clean up, retouch paint and fix some dings in the walls left from construction. Work on the park in front of the building, around the Paul Bunyan statue, is expected to wrap up in August, he said.
The official grand opening gala for the Cross Insurance Center is scheduled for Sept. 10.
Cross Insurance Center has selected Ovations Food Services to cater dinners for hundreds of event attendees as well as to supply concession stands during events. Both Ovations and Global Spectrum, the international venue management company that operates Bangor’s new arena, are subsidiaries of Philadelphia-based sports and entertainment firm Comcast-Spectacor.
Ovations has named Carmen Montes, owner and chef at Montes International Catering and Gourmet Cafe in Bangor from 1998 to 2012, as food and beverage director at the facility. Her first day will be June 10, according to an Ovations news release.
Food service will face its first major test this summer in feeding about 500 people during the Senior Little League World Series dinner, Stoudenmire said.
Cross said he was “glad to do [his] little part.”