A committee that has been working on plans to redevelop the Bangor Auditorium and Civic Center complex bulled through a list of the project’s details Thursday in an effort to bring clarity to a vision that has been under development for months.

Working from an architect’s preliminary recommendations that were presented to the city last month, the committee addressed each part of the project one by one, scrapping some ideas and enhancing others. After a wide-ranging discussion and dozens of votes, the City Council’s Special Committee on Arena Implementation settled on a project that could cost as much as $73 million to build.

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Don Dethlefs, a consultant working for the city, estimated that as much as 15 percent of that cost could be avoided because of the depressed economy and the fact that many contractors are “dying for work.”

That would bring the cost to around $65 million, which is slightly higher than the $60 million that Bangor finance chief Debbie Cyr said the city can afford.

The purpose of Thursday’s votes were to give Dethlefs and the other designers clear directions so they can wrap up their recommendations and the City Council can make a decision on whether to proceed and, if so, when.

Much of the discussion focused on the size of the arena, which previously was slated to contain 5,000 permanent seats plus up to 2,000 more for certain events.

“My concern is that we don’t have enough seats,” said committee member and City Council Chairman Gerry Palmer, who said he has heard from several constituents who agree. “I think we’re being too frugal in this area.”

But not everyone shared that view, including Jon Johnson, general manager of Hollywood Slots, who is also a member of the committee. “I think the proposed seats are adequate,” he said. “You don’t build a church for Easter.”

A majority of the committee sided with Palmer, though, and asked Dethlefs to add another 400 seats without increasing the budget. That would bring maximum seating capacity for certain events that don’t require much floor space to about 7,400 people. Dethlefs, who attended the meeting by phone from his office in Denver, said he could accomplish that by scaling back amenities such as what he called a “lavish” lobby planned for both the arena and a proposed adjacent conference and ballroom space.

The committee lent strong support to building two pedestrian bridges, one to cross Dutton Street and the other to provide a heated, air-conditioned link to Hollywood Slots, located across Main Street. The panel supported tearing down the aging Bangor Auditorium and building a ballroom and conference facility on the remain-ing foundation, and rehabilitating the nearby Civic Center, but opted out of hundreds of thousands of dollars for a traffic circle and certain improvements to nearby parking lots. The panelists also said no to a $1 million clock tower, new agricultural buildings at the fairgrounds and an expanded recreational vehicle park.

With hopes of a college or professional hockey team taking up residence here tempered by the slim chances of that actually happening, they opted to install the ground piping for an ice arena but to delay the purchase of associated equipment.

What to do with a skateboarding park now on the property, which was funded mostly with private donations and support from area businesses, caused considerable discussion with everyone agreeing that it must be replaced. The committee OK’d $100,000 to move it.

The committee hopes to have updated plans from the consultants next month so the City Council can begin deliberations.

Charlie Birkel, a longtime Bangor resident who has watched the process unfold, cautioned city officials against spending too much.

“Is this committee considering that Bangor is going to build this alone?” asked Birkel. “We can’t build this on our own, folks. This should be a regional facility.”


Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.