Bangor planning for a new ice arena and recreation center

Two major questions regarding the futures of Bangor’s ice arena and recreation center are expected to be answered by early November.

Sawyer Arena, an ice facility on 13th Street, and the Bangor Parks and Recreation Center in the former Bangor Armory on Main Street are the subjects of an ongoing feasibility study to determine whether the two aging structures can be replaced by one new facility. Sawyer Arena is more than 30 years old, while the parks and recreation center has been in the Bangor Armory for approximately the same amount of time.

The study will determine whether one facility for both needs is best or if the two should remain in separate buildings, as well as the cost estimates for various proposals. The results are expected at the end of October or early November, according to Bangor Parks and Recreation Director Tracy Willette.

A survey conducted among the local community revealed that the citizens favor one new facility, encompassing an ice arena and recreation center, rather than renovating the current facilities or building an arena and a recreation center on two separate properties, Willette said.

“It was serious time to take a look at each facility and assess if they are nearing their end of usefulness for the city and the citizens,” Willette said. “Both facilities have been maximized.”

The city of Bangor owns several properties that could house new facilities.

The Bangor School Department owns land on the Griffin Road in Bangor, while the city owns property behind Bass Park next to the Bangor Municipal Golf Course, another piece of property near Bangor International Airport and some land at Hayford Park where Sawyer Arena and Mansfield Stadium are located.

Sawyer Arena is strictly a skating and hockey facility and is only open half a year, Willette said. The city of Bangor took over Sawyer Arena from Bangor Youth Hockey in the 1990s.

So it is possible the new ice arena could become a multipurpose facility and used for other things when hockey season ends.

The next step will be deciding upon one of the proposals and figuring out the funding, Willette said.

BerryDunn Consulting and Accounting in Bangor is conducting the feasibility study and CHA Architecture in Portland and MacLaughlin Management and Design in New Hampshire have also been involved.

Willette is confident the new facility will get plenty of use and he said these are “exciting times” in Bangor with a lot of enthusiasm from the citizens about the future project.

“Bangor has changed a lot over the last 15 to 20 years,” Willette said.

The state’s first casino, Hollywood Casino Hotel and Raceway, opened in 2005. The Waterfront Concert Series began in what is now the Maine Savings Amphitheater in 2010, the Cross Insurance Center replaced the Bangor Auditorium and opened in 2013, and the new artificial turf surface on the football field and new track surrounding it came into existence two years ago behind the Cohen Middle School in Bangor.

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