When the Arena’s was not rockin’, the craft and trade shows were overflowin’ as the Cross Insurance Center brought multiple big-name acts, seminars, craft fairs, and other events to Bangor since opening last September.
And the pace will not likely slacken into 2014, according to General Manager Mike Dyer of Global Spectrum, the company that manages the Cross Insurance Center.
Since the $65 million facility’s official September 2013 grand opening, at least 50,000 people have attended various events there, including a large crowd during public tours offered in mid-September. By year’s end paid attendance could exceed 30,000 people, depending on attendance at University of Maine basketball games.
“Overall it’s gone very well,” Dyer said, referring to the CIC’s opening months. “We’re very pleased with the way the building has performed.
“That’s not to say we haven’t had our growing pains,” he said. One issue involved event-related traffic flows, specifically how to prevent inbound traffic from clogging Main Street from the Dutton Street traffic light to the Interstate-395 ramps. The solution involved blocking off Dutton Street leading to Bass Park and creating alternating two lanes of traffic on Buck Street for CIC events. Signs direct event-goers to Buck Street rather than Dutton Street.
“We had that concept in mind all along in the planning stages,” Dyer said. “You can see it in the three lanes created on Buck Street.”
Since September the Cross Insurance Center has hosted such events as the Harlem Globetrotters, the Central Maine Derby, the BDN Man Expo, the Blue Man Group, Chicago, Hank Williams Jr., the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and Mannheim Steamroller. The University of Maine started playing most of its “home” varsity basketball games in the Arena in November, and the varsity basketball teams from Brewer High School (currently undergoing renovation) and John Bapst Memorial High School in Bangor are playing their home games at the CIC, too.
So what’s on tap for 2014?
“Through Global Spectrum, we’re holding a number of dates through June of next year,” Dyer said. The front major event will be “The Monster Jam,” a Jan. 3-4 appearance of monster trucks in the Arena.
“It’s a show we wouldn’t have been able to do in the [Bangor] auditorium,” which lacked sufficient air-handling capability to remove exhaust fumes from inside the building, Dyer pointed out. In fact several Cross Insurance Center events, past and future, would not have occurred in the buildings that the facility replaces.
“We wouldn’t have had the Broadway series or Jeff Dunham” and other performances, Dyer said. All the events that have already taken place in the CIC’s Arena and convention center “far exceed what we could’ve hoped for in the old facilities,” he said.
“Beauty and the Beast” (part of the Broadway series) is on tap for March 3, and Justin Moore will bring his “Off the Beaten Path” Tour and guests artists Randy Houser and Josh Thompson to the Cross Insurance Center on March 7.
With the “considerable number of dates” being held through late spring, Dyer anticipates that “three or four major concerts” with a “3,500 people or more [in attendance] potential” could develop during that timeframe.
Non-concert events slated for winter and spring include the regional high school cheerleading championships and the Eastern Maine Basketball Tournament in February. The Republican state convention will take place at the Cross Insurance Center from April 23-27; the Democratic state convention will be held there from May 29-31.
“I think the last time this happened [in Bangor] was in the late ’80s or very early ’90s,” Dyer said.
The state American Legion convention will be held June 12-14 at the CIC; according to Dyer, who managed the Bangor Auditorium and Bangor Civic Center for the city of Bangor, “this will be the first time we can do everything they (Legionnaires) want to do — and have space left over.”
The convention center has hosted “groups as small as 15 to 20 [people] to use the board room in the morning and groups as large as 400 or 500 to use our facilities for a day,” he said. The convention center “was packed” during the mid-November Maine Harvest Festival.
“We’re very optimistic” that use of the convention center and meeting rooms “will continue to grow going forward,” Dyer said. “We’ve had three different events going on in the convention center at the same time.”