BANGOR, Maine — With demolition of the Bangor Auditorium only one more high school basketball tournament away, planning is under way to hold special events to commemorate the history surrounding the nearly 57-year-old facility.
The group is small right now, just Bass Park director Mike Dyer and longtime high school coach and basketball referee Bob Cimbollek, but many of the events are likely to have a basketball theme.
“Basketball has been such a big part of the history [of the auditorium] that it makes all kinds of sense to do as many things as we can” with basketball themes, said Dyer. Some or all of the Eastern Maine basketball tournaments have been held in the auditorium since it opened Oct. 1, 1955.
“The MPA [Maine Principals’ Association] indicated it definitely wanted to do something,” said Dyer of the state’s governing body for high school athletics that conducts the regional and state high school basketball tournaments. He expects others will be interested as well.
“WWE was just here and they indicated they may want to do another show” before it’s torn down, said Dyer.
“I’m sure we’ll be collaborating with various such groups to come up with five or six ideas and run with them,” he said.
Basketball won’t be the only activity that gets its due, Dyer believes. The auditorium also hosted numerous concerts; shows for sportsmen, boats and homes as well as industrial shows; plus school graduations and more.
Dyer expects it will be late spring or early summer before a committee will be put together.
“We’re definitely in the formative stage right now,” he said.
It’s too early to create a committee, he said, because all of the people and groups who might be interested in doing something haven’t even been identified or made their interest known.
Cimbollek, who coached in the auditorium for 20 years — seven with Bangor High and 13 with John Bapst — already has come up with several ideas with basketball themes.
“We’re looking at having a foul-shooting contest one day and a 3-point contest the next day,” said Cimbollek. “Those will be open to anybody who wants to do it.”
That’s just for openers.
Cimbollek would like to hold an undergrad tournament the day after the state Class C and D championship games are held at the auditorium.
“And we’ll have an alumni tournament,” said Cimbollek. “Jonesport-Beals, for instance, could have one team, or two teams.”
The only restriction is the players, boys and girls, would have to have played for their high school teams, said Cimbollek.
That doesn’t mean people who never played for their school will be left out. There also could be events that are open to anyone, such as 3-on-3 and 1-on-1 tournaments.
Cimbollek expects there will be some small charges to cover expenses.
The biggest limitation to the events will be scheduling because the auditorium will continue to hold events right up until Bangor High’s graduation ceremony in 2013, either June 2 or June 9.
“The next day, they start taking the roof off,” said Cimbollek.
Most of the basketball events will be around tournament time from mid-February to early March because that’s when the basketball floor will be down. All other events require the floor to be taken up and stored.
“Once the floor is [taken] up [after the tournament], it’ll stay up,” said Dyer.
Dyer believes that a lot of people will have items that can be offered for any number of displays that could take place in the final year.
“You never know what people may have in the way of memorabilia,” he said.
Some people may be surprised at Cimbollek embracing the celebration of the auditorium’s history leading up to its replacement.
Cimbollek spearheaded the effort to get a referendum vote in Bangor to overturn a City Council vote of approval for a new $65 million auditorium. He and his supporters said they thought the residents of Bangor should be heard.
Residents voted in favor of the arena 3-to-1 in May, and Cimbollek said he got what he wanted all along — a say in the decision by Bangor residents.
“When we were against the [new] auditorium, it was not about the auditorium,” said Cimbollek. “We wanted the civic center done first and then see how that did [financially before committing to a new auditorium].
“Now that it’s done, we want to do this right.”
He likes the idea of the auditorium’s history being celebrated.
“She’s a grand old lady,” said Cimbollek, “and I’d like to give everybody a chance to shoot at the auditorium. Maybe we’ll have a raffle to be the last person to make a basket, at both ends.”
Dyer said anyone with suggestions can call his office at 947-5555 or fax it to 947-5105.
Dyer sees the potential for a lot of work.
“This could be a full-time job for two or three people,” he said with a little laugh. “It has the potential to have a life of its own.”