BANGOR, Maine — Flanked by city councilors, Woodrow Cross, the 96-year-old patriarch of the Bangor insurance firm that is the namesake of the city’s new $65 million arena, cut a ceremonial ribbon Tuesday launching a week of events celebrating the grand opening of the Cross Insurance Center.
“This is great for the city of Bangor, and it’s good for the great state of Maine,” Cross said after he cut the ribbon in front of an audience of city staff, local business owners and officials from Global Spectrum, the company that manages the arena’s operations.
Cross remembers when Bangor’s former auditorium went up in the mid-1950s. That arena suited the city well for more than half a century, but it was time for a change, Cross said.
The old Bangor Auditorium was torn down earlier this year, demolished to make way for parking for its replacement.
“I’d rather have my name on this one,” Cross said with a chuckle.
Mike Dyer, general manager of the Cross Insurance Center, said the city’s residents can take “great civic pride” in Bangor’s new venue.
“It gives people another reason to say, ‘Hey, I’m from Bangor,’” he said.
“This is the culmination of a lot of hard work by a lot of people, some of whom may never get their name in the paper or get to cut a ribbon,” Tanya Emery, Bangor’s interim director of community and economic development, said at Tuesday’s event.
She said this would be a “game-changer” for the city.
The arena’s new basketball floor arrived on Monday and crews will begin installing it Wednesday in preparation for the Sept. 20 and 21 Harlem Globetrotters shows, the first ticketed events at the venue, Dyer said. The arena has seating for about 5,800, with room for an additional 2,700 attendees during concerts.
There is still some final preparation work before the arena and convention center begin welcoming events, as a few mishaps and imperfections popped up during “soft opening” events in recent weeks. Several cracks opened up in the concrete floor of the building, which contractors have vowed to repair.
During last month’s Senior League World Series in Bangor, Cross Insurance Center hosted the banquet for the teams, their coaches and fans. However, the staff ran out of food during the event.
According to Dyer, that’s a mistake that Global Spectrum learned from and won’t make again.
Community members will get a chance to see the result of the two-year construction project they approved in a 2011 referendum from 3 to 8 p.m. Saturday, with tours of the new arena. A fireworks display will be held afterward.