PORTLAND — The Cumberland County Civic Center board of trustees approved a renovation plan Wednesday that’s expected to cost about $28 million, assuming county voters approve a bond next fall to pay for the improvements.

The renovation plan includes new premium seating in the 35-year-old arena, an improved box office and upgraded concessions. It also calls for several “back of house” projects, such as a larger loading dock and better dressing and locker rooms.

The plan approved by the board was recommended last month by a task force that has been studying the needs of the downtown Portland arena.

The $28 million price is an estimate from consultants hired by the task force, but a building committee will be appointed to come up with a more detailed timeline for the upgrades and a more precise cost estimate.

The cost could be offset somewhat by private fundraising and revenue from things such as the sale of naming rights to the arena. Public funds likely would be raised by selling bonds, assuming voters approve that step in a referendum expected to be on the November 2011 ballot.

Board members said the renovation plan is a cost-effective way to bring the arena closer to modern standards and keep it attractive for promoters of concerts, sporting events and other performances.

Before the board approved the renovation proposal, several members criticized an alternative put forth by Westbrook developer Jason Snyder, who wants to build a new arena in Westbrook or Portland and convert the civic center to a convention center.

Snyder said his arena would cost about $85 million, and converting the civic center would run about $30 million.

Board members criticized Snyder for floating the idea late in the task force’s study of renovation options. He was scheduled to talk to the board about his plan in September, but canceled that meeting and said he and his advisers would not be available for the board’s regular October meeting.

He finally sat down with the board late last month, and several board members said his proposal lacked details.

Snyder wanted the county and city of Portland to provide $85,000 for consultants to determine whether a new arena would be viable, but the civic center board declined Wednesday to consider putting up money for the report.

 

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

emurphy@pressherald.comThe $28 million price is an estimate from consultants hired by the task force.