February 10, 2013

The last hurrahs for the Bangor Auditorium

The Bangor Auditorium, a stage for so many graceful high school basketball players through the years, prepares for a graceful exit.

By Tom Chard tchard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 2)

click image to enlarge

It was a place to be part of a community, to convene each school vacation week in February and root for a high school basketball team. The Bangor Auditorium became a place for memories, a wonderful place to see a game. It became The Mecca. Soon it will be no more.

Kennebec Journal photo/Jeff Pouland

click image to enlarge

The Bangor Auditorium has been a fixture of the city’s skyline since the mid-1950s. It will be replaced by a 6,000-seat building with all the amenities, but it will never be replaced by those who treasure its architecture and hours watching basketball inside its walls.

Michael C. York photo

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A CHANCE FOR THAT ONE LAST SHOT

To commemorate the Bangor Auditorium, there will be a shoot-around at the Auditorium on March 16-17. All former players are being invited back to take one last shot or shots on the court. The invitation also extends to the public. Former players Bill Burney of Augusta and Steve Pound of Greenville are organizing the event in conjunction with the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame.

"We're going to have different shooting games," said Burney. "We want to send the Auditorium off in good fashion."

So make sure you bring your sneakers and your shooting eye.

The Maine Principals' Association is planning a tribute to the Bangor Auditorium. On the cover of the Eastern Class C tournament program, there will be a picture of the Bangor Auditorium at the top and the new Cross Insurance Center on the bottom. Then, before the Class C girls' state championship game March 2, the MPA will present a plaque to the city of Bangor in appreciation of all the Eastern Maine tournaments held at the Auditorium.

- Tom Chard

BANGOR AUDITORIUM MEMORIES

Cindy Blodgett:

"I really think it's our equivalent of Madison Square Garden."

Matt Rossignol:

(As a kid) "you went there dreaming about when it would be your time."

Missy (Belanger) Tracy

"Once you go there as a player, you dream of getting back."

Jim Bessey

"You couldn't audible. Your players couldn't hear. You had to have visuals."

"I remember walking through the doors into the arena when I was a freshman," said Burney. "I wasn't playing. I had gone up to watch the varsity. The pageantry with the bands, the cheerleaders and the fans was just stunning. That's when I realized I wanted to play there."

Kyle Bouchard, a sophomore, is Houlton's leading scorer this season. The Shiretowners will head into the Eastern Class C tournament Feb. 19 as the top-ranked team. Bouchard's grandfather, Terry Spurling, played for Ellsworth in the first tournament at the Auditorium in 1956, and Bouchard will play in the last. If Houlton advances to the Class C state final, Bouchard will play in the last game there.

"I've been going to games there with my father, mother and grandfather since I can remember," said Bouchard, whose father, Marty, is principal of Houlton High. "So many stories have been written about the Bangor Auditorium. To have a chance to write the last one would be extremely special."

Mike Dyer has been the general manager at the facility since 1988 and will continue in that capacity at the Cross Insurance Center, which will be run by Global Spectrum, a management company out of Philadelphia.

"The memories and the associations of the Auditorium will always be there," said Dyer.

BASKETBALL TO WRECKING BALL

But among the things Dyer won't miss is the leaky roof. They have been issues during the tournament, and as Kenny Rogers will attest, during a certain concert.

"From the operations side, the aggravation of making the whole thing work will be gone. There hasn't been anyone when they tour the new building who isn't excited," he said.

While admitting that he didn't have the opportunity to watch a lot of basketball over the years because of his job, Dyer's favorite tournament memories were during the Blodgett era at Lawrence from 1991-94.

"The building was always full and there was a total buzz for basketball," he said.

In the Cross Insurance Center, which will be the new home for the Eastern Maine tournament, the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame will have a wing to honor the game's history, outstanding players and coaches in the state. The first induction is tentatively scheduled for the spring of 2014.

The final high school basketball game will be the Class C boys' state final March 2. Dyer said the last seated event will be the Shrine Circus from May 3-5. The very last event will be the Bangor Savings Bank employee recognition night May 22. Six days later, the wrecking ball will swing and an era will end.

"There are a lot of emotions with the Bangor Auditorium," said Tapley, 73, the Easton standout who lives in Torrington, Conn. "I don't like to see it demolished but with modern times, things change."

On Feb. 23, 1956, Jim Trafton of East Corinth, playing for Central High, scored the first basket in a tournament game at the Auditorium.

On March 2, 2013, someone will score the last.

Staff Writer Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at:

tchard@pressherald.com

Twitter: TomChardPPH

 

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Additional Photos

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The welcome sign remains out at the Bangor Auditorium, although there are precious few days remaining to welcome visitors. This year’s Eastern Maine tournament will be the final one at the venerable building.

Michael C. York photo

click image to enlarge

Watching your step has been a key part to watching a game at the Bangor Auditorium. Steep inclines prevail and the higher you go, the smaller the players appear on the court. But that has always been part of the fun in a building that has provided so much fun to so many over the years.

Michael C. York photo

click image to enlarge

Bill Burney



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