BANGOR, Maine — Will Bangor’s new $65 million arena live up to all the hype?
John Porter, president of the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce, asked a panel of two Global Spectrum officials and Bangor’s acting director for community and economic development that question during a Wednesday morning chamber breakfast at Spectacular Event Center.
The panelists expressed little doubt.
“I think you’re off to a wonderful start,” said Matt Hollander, general manager of the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Mass., and regional vice president for Global Spectrum, the operator of Cross Insurance Center.
“There’s already a buzz about the types of activity that are going on in this region,” Hollander said of Bangor, adding that he “dreaded” the idea of having to compete with the Cross Center for shows, events and conferences.
Mike Dyer, general manager of the new arena, gave chamber members a rundown of how booking is proceeding and said he was most excited about early interest in conventions, including the Maine GOP’s decision to hold its 2014 convention at the arena. It’s the first time the convention has been held in Bangor since the 1990s. He said the arena was also in talks with Maine Democrats about the potential of hosting their 2014 convention as well.
Dyer said the community has taken a vested interest in the arena project and opportunities it will bring the city. He cited the roughly $750,000 per year that the arena will make between the naming rights deal with Cross Insurance and marketing deals with its founding partners, which include the Bangor Daily News, Quirk Auto Group, the city of Brewer and Rudman Winchell law firm.
The third panelist, Bangor business development specialist Tanya Emery, said the new arena has played a part in sparking developers’ interest in Bangor. Ocean Properties recently purchased a lot from the city directly across Dutton Street from the new arena, with plans to build a hotel with up to 160 rooms. Last week, the city approved a second hotel plan by Maine Course Hospitality Group on Sylvan Road.
Many other elements are playing a part in that interest, Emery said, including the Waterfront Concerts Series, Hollywood Casino and other downtown businesses.
The growth hasn’t come without challenges, Emery said, citing “growing pains” that have come along with development — including concerns from some area residents about the noise during Waterfront Concerts.
The city continues to work on those issues, in part through an effort to revitalize the Main-to-Third-Street neighborhood by increasing homeownership rates, providing affordable housing in the area for workers, and finding ways to develop the Main Street corridor.
She said it was important that the city be “laser focused” on promoting growth in the areas of manufacturing and technology and not limiting its efforts to entertainment businesses.
The arena ’ s first events have been announced: The Harlem Globetrotters will visit Bangor for the second time this year on Sept. 20 and 21, and Jeff Dunham, a ventriloquist who performed at Waterfront Concerts in 2011, is returning Nov. 22.
Dyer said more events would be revealed in the near future.
“Certainly there’s an awful lot that’s on the table right now,” Dyer said, telling the audience that Global Spectrum was in talks with Cirque du Soleil about a possible appearance next year.
In response to a question from a breakfast attendee, Dyer said upcoming announcements “may or may not include Blue Man Group.”
The Cross Insurance Center will hold its grand opening in September, which will include an opportunity for residents to attend an open house and tour the facility, including the backstage areas.
“I think it really is up to the community to determine whether we’ve met or exceeded expectations,” Emery said.