BANGOR, Maine — Bangor entered into a two-year contract with Eastern Maine Development Corp. on Monday to help the city secure additional funding to support the construction of a new arena.
Under the agreement, the city will pay EMDC $10,000 each year and up to $1,000 a month for expenses. Additionally, EMDC will get to keep 2 percent of any grant funding secured for the project.
Council Chair Richard Stone, who approached EMDC President Michael Aube earlier this month about a potential collaboration, said Bangor needs all the help available to ensure that a new arena does not require taxpayer dollars.
City councilors are cautiously moving forward on plans for a 5,400-fixed-seat arena, expandable to 7,400 seats. A citizen-led arena implementation committee approved a series of recommendations in December that were based on results of a market study conducted last summer. Those recommendations included a new arena, followed by renovations to the existing auditorium and civic center, as well as optional items that could be included in the project.
The bulk of the cost of a new arena, estimated at $50 million or more, will be paid with the city’s portion of revenue generated by Hollywood Slots. That fund now has about $7 million, and Bangor expects it to earn $2.5 million to $3 million each year going forward.
Phase II of the project, renovations to the existing auditorium and civic center, could cost an added $15 million or more. Councilor Gerry Palmer said that’s where EMDC’s help could come in.
EMDC is a six-county regional economic development entity that has access to a wide range of federal and state grant opportunities. Palmer said EMDC’s role would stress that a new arena is a regional economic development project not just a Bangor project.
Two councilors, Pat Blanchette and Hal Wheeler, opposed the partnership at Monday’s City Council meeting. Blanchette was upset that the city didn’t approach its own economic development office first. Wheeler was not comfortable committing to a two-year contract.
Andy Hamilton, a local lawyer and member of the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors, praised the council for asking for help with what he called a “defining item of infrastructure.”
The city’s next step is selecting an architect and, potentially, a construction manager to oversee design of the project.