BANGOR, Maine — Early bookings for the soon-to-be-open Cross Insurance Center reveal an eclectic mix of offerings in the coming months ranging from Blue Man Group and mainstream music to Broadway shows.
But the Queen City’s new arena also is poised to remain true to one of the hallmark activities of its predecessor, the Bangor Auditorium.
High school basketball will be a featured part of the building’s 2013-14 winter schedule, not only as host of the Eastern Maine Classes B, C and D tournament in February but as the site for most, if not all, regular-season home games for both John Bapst Memorial High School of Bangor and Brewer High School.
John Bapst’s place on the Cross Insurance Center’s docket represents the continuation of a longstanding relationship between the school and the city through the Crusaders’ use of the Bangor Auditorium as its home court for many years, according to CIC general manager Mike Dyer.
“At this point we will play every game that we can at the Cross Center,” said John Bapst athletic administrator and boys varsity basketball coach Rick Sinclair.
The move of Brewer High basketball games across the Penobscot River is planned as a one-year arrangement while that school undergoes major renovations.
Brewer’s gymnasium will be minimally affected directly by that $5.4 million project, but the building’s main lobby will not be available and bathrooms near the gym are scheduled for renovation, making use of the gym for varsity basketball games that typically draw hundreds of fans unfeasible, said Brewer athletic administrator Dave Utterback.
Brewer officials also considered several other options for their home games this winter, including the the city’s Center Street gymnasium, Memorial Gymnasium on the campus of the University of Maine in Orono and the Skehan Center on the former Hampden Academy campus in Hampden.
”We just wanted to do what’s in the best interest of the kids of Brewer,” said Utterback, who added that the high school gymnasium still will be available for practices along with the Center Street facility.
Utterback has been reworking some of the Witches’ basketball dates for the coming season to schedule boys and girls’ varsity doubleheaders at the Cross Insurance Center.
Those moves would reduce the number of times Brewer would need to rent the center and provide an savings in travel costs that would offset rental costs.
Some Brewer basketball dates at the new arena still would feature traditional boys or girls varsity, junior varsity and freshman tripleheaders.
“Having some varsity doubleheaders helps us stay within the budget,” said Utterback, who indicated one possible boys and girls varsity doubleheader to be played at the Cross Insurance Center might be the Dec. 6 season opener against Hampden Academy. “One other thing we wanted to ensure was that every team has nine home games and nine away games.”
In cases when Brewer and John Bapst have home games scheduled on the same date, Dyer said John Bapst would have priority because of its long relationship with the Bangor Auditorium.
But there might be situations on a Saturday or during Christmas vacation week when both schools could host games at the Cross Insurance Center on the same day.
Dyer said the John Bapst and Brewer schedules also will have to accommodate another basketball tenant, the University of Maine. Dyer said he is waiting to receive the Black Bears’ 2013-14 America East men’s and women’s basketball schedules, which have not yet been released.
University of Maine athletic director Steve Abbott announced recently that “over half” of that school’s men’s and women’s basketball home games will be played at the Cross Insurance Center this coming season. UMaine also plans to hold some practice sessions at the Bangor locale.
“From what I understand, it’s still a little up in the air as far as solid dates based on UMaine having priority and then filling in the high school dates,” said Sinclair. “But I’ll be working with Dave because we want everybody to be able to get their games in.”
Dyer said the high school game schedules also could be affected by other events being booked into the facility. He said arrangements with both schools provide flexibility in case the arena gets additional bookings during basketball season, though he anticipated being able to accommodate a large percentage of the high schools’ scheduling requests.
“If we do get another commitment, then we’ll try to find the schools another date,” said Dyer, who added that bookings for musical acts or other events normally are confirmed at least 1½ to two months ahead of the date of the activity in order to allow for ticket sales and other marketing efforts.