The curtain has yet to fall on the Bangor Auditorium, but the final act is upon us.
The final regional tournament at the old edifice on Buck Street came to a conclusion last Saturday, with six schools punching their tickets to play for an even bigger prize this weekend, the gold ball.
Tournament week leaves a lasting impression on fans, players and media personnel alike over the course of eight days, but this one was even more special, with the wrecking ball scheduled to knock this historic building down in a few months’ time.
Of course, the “new-school” people like myself are itching to get into the sparkling new Cross Insurance Center, finishing up construction a jump-stop away from the existing structure. We clamor for better concessions and bathrooms, padded seats and no wooden bleachers, improved Internet access and air conditioning, and all modern conveniences that come with every new arena in the 21st century.
However, in the midst of a nine-hour day Monday that consisted of four Class D quarterfinal games, including the Machias girls picking up their first Auditorium win in nearly two decades, it hit me how much I’ll miss the old place, the disgusting hot dogs and cramped quarters at press row not withstanding.
Tourney 2013 sent the old building out with a bang, despite the state’s two best players – Parise Rossignol of Van Buren and Garet Beal of Jonesport-Beals, both University of Maine prospects – having their teams bounced in the quarterfinals. New heroes and old ones emerged. The crowds packed the place – more than 4,000 were present at Saturday’s Class B regional finals – despite the inclement weather that comes with February in Maine.
There were surprises, like the eighth-ranked Easton boys shocking the world in upsetting Jonesport-Beals in the quarterfinals and nearly doing it to Hodgdon five nights later, sending the shot clock activists into a rage – most of you know how I feel about that topic. There was the machine-like precision of the Washburn and Presque Isle girls putting on an exceptional display of hard-nosed basketball. There was the Foxcroft Academy boys coming out of the No. 13 seed, having to win a preliminary game on the road and upsetting fifth-ranked Caribou (sorry Mom), and the Calais girls winning yet another Eastern Maine Class C championship on a floor where so many Blue Devils have experienced such a moment.
This weekend, eight teams – the Washburn, Richmond, Calais and Waynflete girls and Central Aroostook, Forest Hills, Penquis and Boothbay Region boys – will make history of their own. Win or lose, those eight teams will be part of something special: The final games ever played at the Bangor Auditorium. The Washburn girls are seeking their third straight gold ball. The Central Aroostook boys and Calais girls have fabled postseason resumes on this floor. Boothbay and Penquis have two of the state’s longest tenured and respected coaches. There’s no reason the Auditorium should be full throughout the day. It’s just too bad you have to pay to reenter the building. For this day, the MPA ought to consider having one game ticket be good for all four games.
After I covered my last game at the old edifice on Championship Saturday, the memories lingered deep within my loins. But as I looked to my right at the Cross Center, thoughts immediately turned to a new era in Maine high school basketball. It’s almost like the Audtorium is the old Boston Garden and the Cross Center is the TD Garden. One is old, has lots of memories and needs to be replaced, while the other is opening its doors to a new era, new memories, and new heroes.
To the last person who leaves the Auditorium on Saturday night, don’t forget to turn out the lights. The party is not over. It’s just moving next door.