Cross Insurance Center almost ready as workers chip away at to-do list for June ‘soft opening’

Posted April 08, 2013, at 9:47 a.m.
Last modified April 08, 2013, at 3:33 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — It’s all over but the cleaning.

Workers at the Cross Insurance Center are wiping away the dust, washing the floors and countertops, installing the last few carpets and getting the $65 million facility ready for its first “soft opening” event — Bangor High School’s June 9 commencement ceremony, arena officials said Friday.

Todd Stoudenmire, the arena’s new assistant general manager, said crews were chipping away at a lengthy final checklist. Stoudenmire moved to Brewer a week ago to begin his new job after working at another Global Spectrum arena in Philadelphia.

The graduation ceremony will allow the arena to ensure everything is working as planned before hosting larger events in the fall.

Global Spectrum has yet to announce the first major events, but announcements are expected in late June or early July. Promoters are looking at events ranging from motocross and monster truck shows to big-name musical acts, ultimate fighting events, Cirque du Soleil and Ringling Bros. Circus, according to Pat Horne, the arena’s director of corporate partnerships.

“We want this entire first year to be a series of events that everyone can be a part of,” Stoudenmire said.

The arena has 5,800 fixed seats, plus about 1,500 retractable seats, and room for more than 8,000 patrons when it’s set up for a concert. It also has luxury box seating and club seating for more than 200 on the third floor, which has a bar-and-pub style atmosphere, according to Horne.

Most boxes are reserved for the arena’s founding partners, groups that agreed to contribute $455,000 each over seven years to the Cross Insurance Center. Nine partners have signed on, but only four — Bangor Savings Bank, the City of Brewer, the Bangor Daily News and Rudman Winchell law firm — have announced their partnerships publicly.

The facility’s main ballroom can sit 1,100 for dinner, host more than 85 trade show booths, or be split into up to seven smaller rooms for individual events, according to Horne. The room could host the Senior Little League banquet this summer as another “soft opening event,” he said.

The arena also contains one of just three escalators in the city — the other two are housed at Macy’s and Bangor International Airport.

While the arena’s floor doesn’t include the hardware necessary for a hockey rink, it is large enough to hold an NHL-regulation rink and could be retrofitted to hold a rink if a team or ice-event came along, according to Stoudenmire.

The transition from old to new will happen quickly in May. Global Spectrum, the Philadelphia-owned venue management firm that operates the new Bangor arena, hopes to move its operations to the Cross Center in mid-May.

On May 28, Cianbro Corp. will take over the iconic, but past-its-prime, Bangor Auditorium and Civic Center, allowing crews to come in and begin a “surgical” demolition process, according to Jon DiCentes, project manager of the construction firm that also will oversee the demolition of the old structures.

Demolition of the Bangor Auditorium will be a 6-8-week process, according to DiCentes.

“The whole thing can’t come down in one day,” he said. First, crews will come in to perform asbestos abatement. Then key pieces of the structure will be removed before large excavators come in to pick the building apart, piece by piece.

“We thought about [an implosion] but the city ordinance won’t allow it,” DiCentes said, “and it probably wouldn’t be the right thing to do anyway, because of where the new building is [just a few feet downhill]. It would be pretty unsafe.”

Representatives of the future Maine Basketball Hall of Fame will be allowed inside before May 28 to remove seats, benches and other pieces of memorabilia. DiCentes said there’s “no salvageable value” to those. Hall of Fame representatives will sell or auction off seats and other items to raise money for the hall, which will be housed in the Cross Insurance Center concourse.

The last event at the Bangor Auditorium, the Northeastern Forest Products Equipment Expo, will be held May 17-18.

DiCentes said the demolition subcontractors will take ownership of valuable materials pulled from the demolition debris, such as copper and other metals. The value of those materials was subtracted from the overall price tag for the project.

“Thank goodness we didn’t go through this a year and a half ago because the price [of commodities, such as copper] we would have gotten then versus the prices we got now are significantly different,” DiCentes said. “Commodity prices are up, so the demo price has gone down, so that’s helped the job.” He said he didn’t know the value of the salvaged material.

After the Bangor Auditorium comes down and the Cross Insurance Center is set to begin operations, the trailers and fencing around the site will be removed, the grass will be laid down and the parking lots will be cleared and cleaned.

“This whole thing should all come together at once,” DiCentes said.