The final high school basketball game has been played at the Bangor Auditorium and my memories of the building go beyond the players and games. For 21 years during basketball season, I spent more time in that building than in any other building except for my home.
The first Bangor Auditorium was opened in 1897 on the current site of the new Cross Insurance Center.
Bangor High and John Bapst played their home games and practice there. This facility had a capacity of 2,000 and a regular size high school court of 50 by 84 feet.
It had a balcony completely surrounding the court with bleachers under the balcony on each side and had bleachers at both ends of the court.
The Eastern Maine Class M and S tourneys were held there and the Class L tourney was held at the University of Maine’s Memorial Gym — “the Pit”.
The second Bangor Auditorium was built and opened in the fall 1955. It was supposed to be completed a year earlier, but a steel strike prevented this from happening.
That was my senior year at Bangor High School and we were supposed to play there for the 1954-55 season.
I can remember leaving after practice at the first Auditorium and looking at the new construction as it looked the Coliseum in Rome. It had the cement poured for the seats in the stadium and balcony with no roof because of the steel strike.
Bangor High first played all of its home games in the Old City Hall on the corner of Penobscot and Hammond Street, which is now a two-tiered garage.
John Bapst played at its school gym on Broadway which opened in 1929.
The second Bangor Auditorium was built specifically for basketball and especially for the Eastern Maine tourney. Bangor and John Bapst played all of their home games in the second Auditorium, however, they got to practice there free only once for every home game — nine practices for the nine home games.
In 1969-70, a change was made in that policy and Bangor and Bapst got to practice at the Auditorium on a regular basis so long as the floor was down.
In 1978-87 the policy of one free practice for each home game was reinstated. However, in 1987-88 it was again reversed and John Bapst got to practice there when the floor was down.
Bangor High had moved to its school for its home games in 1985 so it did not affect them.
From 1969-1977 Bangor, John Bapst and Bangor Christian each used the Auditorium for practices and home games with Bangor having the first dibs on practices and games, John Bapst second and Bangor Christian third.
In fact, the three junior high schools in Bangor got to play two or three games there each Saturday morning.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s the University of Maine men’s and women’s basketball teams shared the Auditorium with John Bapst. That is why the current Auditorium still has blue doors and walls to match Maine colors.
Having spent 21 seasons coaching in the Auditorium (eight years at Bangor and 13 at John Bapst) I was fortunate to have held more total practices and coached more games on that floor than any other coach in the state.
Over these 21 years my teams played more than 300 games and held more 1,500 practices in the “Old Barn.”
Spending so much time in the facility, I got to know it and all of its secrets. In fact, when we finished practices I had to check all 44 doors to make sure it was secure after practices if a custodian was not on duty. It took me 12 minutes.
The high school player who spent the most time playing and practicing in the current Bangor Auditorium was Mike Mathien of John Bapst from 1996-99. The Bangor player who had the most Auditorium court time was Ben Graffam (1973-75) as he also practiced with the Maine Windjammers.
Back in the 1970s it was not unusual for Bangor to draw crowds of more than 4,000 for regular season games against rivals such as John Bapst, Brewer and Stearns.
The closing of the Auditorium and its demolition in May is going to be like demolishing my second home as I was fortunate to play college games at the Auditorium as well as coach, officiate and broadcast games there. I know every crook and cranny of the grand old lady and it will be like losing a very close friend when it is torn down and made into a parking lot.
It was a second home for me during 21 basketball seasons.
It is too bad that the City doesn’t keep the Old Auditorium and the current Civic Center as there is no other facility except the new arena, in Bangor that has the 15,000 plus square feet that the Auditorium surface has when all the bleachers are put it in.
It could be used for indoor soccer, indoor field hockey, baseball and softball indoor practices, tennis, basketball, indoor and outdoor track practices and meets, etc.
It would be a great facility for the Bangor Recreation Department which is just down the road on Maimn Street at the srmory.
Put in a all surface poured tartun surface and then you would be ready to go.
The building along with the Civic Center could still be a positive facilty for the City and its Taxpayers. Instead of paying the costs for tearing the facilities down, put that money towards the all purpose surface that would be a great asset for the greater Bangor Area.