BANGOR, Maine — A day after the 162nd Bangor State Fair closed, Bass Park remained a beehive of activity as construction crews, bulldozers, dump trucks and other heavy equipment began shaping the future home of the new Bangor arena and event center.
The 2,800-square-foot Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce building was demolished quickly Monday morning and trees were taken down while tons of grass, dirt and topsoil were moved around.
John Porter, president and CEO of the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce, had hoped to witness the demolition of his former headquarters, which the Chamber moved into in 1982 and was remodeled in 1988, but was unable to be present when it happened.
“We’re just thrilled — even though it’s not easy to move and lose our former headquarters — to be able to move for the reasons we did,” said Porter. “We worked so hard to get this done and it was our number one advocacy issue, so it’s a minor inconvenience for us to move.”
The Chamber’s headquarters have been relocated temporarily to 208 Maine Ave. in Bangor.
“We’ve signed a yearlong lease to be here, but we’re also working with the city to find a downtown location for ourselves,” Porter said. “We have a spot in mind, but we’re trying to determine the feasibility of that location.”
The new temporary location, formerly used by Hannaford Bros. as an office and training facility, offers a lot more space for the Chamber’s seven full-time staff members, but much less visibility.
“We have a lot more than we need now, and we’re going to get some signage out front,” Porter said. “It’s an issue that we’re not over there anymore in a more visible location because it’s essential to be front and center in the community. But it’s also an opportunity for us and I’m excited about finding a location that will be of maximum benefit for us and the city.”
The Chamber has maintained a presence of sorts on Main Street by setting up a visitors’ information center at Hollywood Slots Hotel and Raceway.
“We don’t have anyone from our office there, but we stock it regularly, and it seems to be a good idea since the volume of materials being gone through is quite high there,” Porter said.
The Bass Park grounds all around the Paul Bunyan statue look almost like a barren lunar landscape with all the trees removed.
“They’re all being taken down and trucked off-site to be processed for beneficial reuse,” said Bangor business development specialist Tanya Pereira. “We hate to lose trees, but it’s absolutely necessary for them to build the new facility.”
Pereira said plans for the new arena’s grounds call for the planting of 75 shade trees, which she called significantly more than the number that were on the grounds until Monday.
Also Monday, Jim Ring, the city’s arena project manager, confirmed that the first placement of structural concrete is only about three weeks away.
Pereira pointed out that effective immediately, Dutton Street will be closed to all traffic except during major events at the Bangor Auditorium or Bangor Raceway. City officials will announce when it is reopened.