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Bangor, Maine's Vision for Combined Ice Arena, Rec Center Coming Into Focus

Thu January 18, 2024 - Northeast Edition #3
Bangor Daily News

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The future of Bangor, Maine's new ice arena and recreational center is beginning to take shape.

The Bangor Daily News reported Jan. 16 that the city's new parks and recreation facility will likely be a combined ice arena and rec center on 41 acres of land off Griffin Road near Husson University, according to Tracy Willette, director of Bangor's parks and recreation department.

The roughly 92,000-sq.-ft. building will hold two sheets of ice — one for youth hockey and high school events and the other to be used as a practice rink — as well as a gymnasium, childcare space and room for other community activities.

In addition, the property will have a separate 30,000-sq.-ft. building to house offices for both city and school recreation maintenance staff next to the larger facility.

"[Bangor] has become a destination for a variety of recreational, athletic and cultural activities, so a new facility like this would be one more amenity residents and visitors could enjoy," Willette said.

Deciding where the new parks and recreation property will be built and what it will hold is the next step in Bangor's years-long process of replacing its existing facilities — all of which have grown too old and too small to meet the community's needs.

Building a new combined ice arena and recreation center, Willette explained, would also follow work the city has done in recent years on other entertainment and athletic facilities, such as the waterfront, Cross Insurance Center, and Cameron Stadium.

The estimated construction and operating costs for the arena/rec center and a potential building schedule will likely be released when the final feasibility study, conducted by the accounting firm of BerryDunn in Bangor, is presented to the city council in February.

"Based on the information we've received from the surveys and stakeholder meetings, there's enthusiasm to keep this project moving," said Willette. "Hopefully that enthusiasm dictates a potential timeline."

Community Weighing in On Project's Site

Sawyer Arena on 13th Street in Hayford Park operates as a seasonal ice hockey rink from October to May. It began as an outdoor rink in the late 1980s before later work erected walls and a roof, Willette noted. Its most recent renovation around 2002 added locker rooms to the structure.

The Bangor Recreation Center is based in the 1930s-era Bangor Armory on Main Street, and today hosts childcare, recreational programming and city parks maintenance staff.

Both facilities were identified in the department's 2021 comprehensive plan as needing either major upgrades or total replacement.

Bangor municipal officials and BerryDunn conducted a feasibility study that included feedback from 571 community members. Additionally, more than 800 city residents completed surveys to describe what they want in the new facility.

BerryDunn also identified six city-owned properties that could hold the new facility.

The Griffin Road site, owned by the Bangor School Department, was determined to be the "most preferred site" because of its large size, central location, and proximity to Interstate 95 and Husson University, Willette said.

Other potential locations included Bass Park, Cleveland Street and Grandview Avenue; however, each was deemed to be either too remote, too small or having traffic issues.

BerryDunn also considered whether new facilities could be built at the current Sawyer Arena or recreation center sites. Those, too, were ultimately rejected after it was determined they were not large enough for a combined facility.

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