BANGOR — At the end of each quarter of basketball, the backboards at the Cross Insurance Center light up. It’s a modern touch in the newest arena in Maine, and it’s glorious.
Bangor’s Cross Insurance Center opened last fall, and has hosted high school and University of Maine basketball games all winter. On Friday, it finally welcomed its marquee event, the Maine Principals’ Association high school basketball tournament.
The building’s concourse is wide. There are plenty of bathrooms and concession stands. The seats are comfortable. Most importantly, the roof doesn’t leak.
The Cross Insurance Center replaced the Bangor Auditorium, which hosted the high school basketball tournament for more than 50 years. A lot of memories were made at the Bangor Auditorium. A lot of famous moments occurred on its court. Thousands of athletes will think of it when they think of their high school basketball days.
But the fact is, the Bangor Auditorium was long overdue for replacement. It was a 20th century relic clinging by its fingertips as the 21st century swallowed it whole.
The Cross Insurance Center is modern and comfortable for athlete and fan alike. One thing the Bangor Auditorium did get right, all the way to the end, was atmosphere. Fans sitting in the lower bleachers at the Bangor Auditorium were right on top of the court.
They still are. The seating at the Cross Insurance Center is a horseshoe, but the seats behind one baseline are closed off, and that means all fans sit on the sidelines. Like the Bangor Auditorium, the closest seats are just a few feet from the court.
Unlike the Bangor Auditorium, which was shaped like a giant V, the cheap seats aren’t that far from the action. Fans sitting in the last few rows don’t need binoculars and an oxygen tank.
The lights in the arena are focused squarely on the court. Fans who thought nothing could be as loud as the Bangor Auditorium will be surprised. The Cross Insurance Center holds the volume, and it proved that during Saturday’s Eastern B boys quarterfinal between Caribou and Winslow.
The game, won by Caribou 63-61, was one of the closest of the tournament so far, and fans from each school had plenty of opportunities to get loud, and they did.
“I didn’t think it’d be as loud as the old Auditorium, but it got pretty loud as the game went on,” Winslow coach Jared Browne said. “You can’t really see (the fans), but you can hear them. It’s a great facility. I’m glad we have it.”
When you attend a game at the Cross Insurance Center, take a walk around the concourse. You’ll see the displays celebrating the history of the high school basketball tournament’s history. There’s old game programs and photos. There’s the Mr. Basketball trophy Hampden’s Christian McCue won as the state’s top schoolboy basketball player. There’s Cindy Blodgett’s Lawrence High School jersey.
Everybody who watched basketball at the Bangor Auditorium will keep the memories. The Cross Insurance Center is a modern, fantastic facility, and it will spawn memories of its own. The truth is, buildings have lives, too. The Bangor Auditorium was a great building for a long time, but in the last decade or so, it wasn’t a great building anymore. It’s best that it was razed to make a parking lot for the Cross Insurance Center. It’s the architectural circle of life.
The Cross Insurance Center is here, and it’s long overdue.