Bangor and Brewer have a long, rich history of playing meaningful basketball games at the Bangor Auditorium.
But the Rams and Witches haven’t had that opportunity for the past several seasons, as the Class A tournament has been played at the Augusta Civic Center since 2006.
That will change this season, as the administration at both schools have come together to schedule a regular-season, girls-boys doubleheader at the Auditorium on Feb. 10.
The Brewer and Bangor girls will play at 5:30 p.m. followed by the boys at 7.
The Rams will be the home team in the girls contest while the Witches will be home for the boys matchup.
The basketball concept is similar to the one the two schools have developed in hockey the last few years in playing one regular-season game at Alfond Arena at the University of Maine, which will happen again this winter, on Feb. 17.
“The Auditorium enabled us to come in and rent the place, so every year, we’ll have both teams show up, pay the bills,” Bangor athletic administrator Steve Vanidestine said. “We felt it’d be better for basketball and the community.”
When Bangor and Brewer were in the Big East conference earlier this decade, the teams would play three times a year, with one game at the Auditorium, when traditional Class A foes such as Old Town and Presque Isle began dropping to Class B.
Another factor in playing the games at the Auditorium was the fact that both Bangor-Brewer boys games last winter were sellouts, and people had to be turned away, which is unlikely to occur at the much larger Auditorium.
The only hurdle Vanidestine and Brewer AD Dennis Kiah had to clear was to make sure that John Bapst, which plays its home games at the Auditorium, didn’t have a home game on Feb. 10.
“We made sure that was not an issue and could work around that,” Vanidestine said.
Bangor boys coach Roger Reed, who has been on the Rams’ sideline for many classic games on the Auditorium hardwood, thinks it’s a great idea to play at the Auditorium for multiple reasons.
“I think that’d be kind of an exciting thing to do, because for our kids, they’ve never been there,” he said. “It gives both of our teams a chance to play on a big surface before going to the Augusta Civic Center, that would certainly be a plus.”
Brewer girls coach Andy Nickerson echoed Reed’s thoughts.
“I think that’s exciting for the kids, they grew up here in the Bangor area, they watch the Eastern Maine tournament take place right there at the Auditorium,” he said. “It’s a great scenario for the kids at both schools to have that experience.”
Nickerson also hopes that the games will bring in some big crowds, especially with the girls and boys playing in the same building.
“I know that our kids are very excited about it, they go there and watch their friends from other schools, and go and see an exciting environment,” he said. “I hope there’s four teams that are all having competitive seasons when they get to that night and its some real meaningful games on the line.”
Vanidestine has some great memories of the Auditorium, one being Joe Campbell’s buzzer-beating tap-in to give the Rams the gold ball in 2001, and he sees this as a great opportunity for today’s players to create some memories of their own.
“Nothing against the Augusta Civic Center, but I really miss the atmosphere in the Auditorium, we have so many memories and history there,” he said.
It’s also beneficial from a financial standpoint since both schools will have a home game, and no fans will be turned away.
“To treat both communities to a game that would be at the Auditorium, it’s kind of special for the kids,” Vanidestine said, “sharing expenses (and) profits, (it’s a) win-win.”
Nickerson hopes his players can always treasure the experience of playing on the floor that the likes of Cindy Blodgett and Matt Rossignol once graced.
“The Bangor Auditorium is a place that has an environment of its own, unless you’ve played on it in front of a sizeable crowd, it’s hard to experience what the experience is,” said Nickerson, who played tourney games on that floor when he played for the Witches in the 1980s.