Abbey Legasse of John Bapst (left), is pictured in a Class B North basketball tournament game in 2018 at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. The school, which has played its home games on the site of the former Bangor Auditorium and the CIC since 1955, recently negotiated four game dates at the facility with building operator Spectra Venue Management. Credit: Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times

The John Bapst Memorial High School varsity basketball teams have called the Queen City’s major arenas home on game nights since the former Bangor Auditorium opened in 1955.

That status shifted buildings with the debut of the Cross Insurance Center in 2013 and will continue to a more limited degree this month. The school and arena have reached an agreement for the Crusaders to play home basketball games there on four January dates beginning Thursday night, when the John Bapst boys varsity and junior varsity squads host Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor.

“It goes without saying that being able to play at first-rate venues like the Cross Insurance Center is a great opportunity for the players and our basketball community,” John Bapst athletic administrator Dan O’Connell said.

“We’re thankful for the opportunity and we’re happy to have found a suitable agreement to be able to play the games at the Cross Insurance Center. We’re looking forward to being at the venue in the month of January.”

John Bapst also has home games scheduled at the Cross Insurance Center on Jan. 16 (vs. MDI, varsity and junior varsity girls), Jan. 17 (vs. Foxcroft Academy, boys and girls varsity) and Jan. 28 (vs. Orono, varsity and junior varsity boys and girls) for a total of 10 games to be played on the four dates.

The home dates at the Cross Insurance Center resulted from negotiations between the school and officials from Spectra Venue Management, which has a contract with the city of Bangor to run the facility.

“The Cross Insurance Center is very excited to continue its partnership with John Bapst in hosting high school basketball games here in 2020,” said Anthony Vail, who recently was hired as general manager of the arena. “We recognize and appreciate how important the CIC has become to the John Bapst basketball program.”

Neither Vail nor O’Connell was willing to discuss the financial terms of the agreement.

O’Connell said the Crusaders’ remaining home games this winter will be played at Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor.

“Based on where we started and where we finished up, this is a good outcome for sure,” O’Connell said. “We weren’t on the same page initially with regard to price and availability for a number of reasons that weren’t specific to John Bapst, but we were able to come all the way back to where we needed to be and by the time we did that, of the home dates we had left these were what was available so we’ll take it.”

John Bapst, an independent school located on Broadway in Bangor, has played some home games at other venues such as Husson University in recent years, including this season.

The Crusaders juggled their early basketball schedules this season while negotiations continued between school and Cross Insurance Center officials.

O’Connell said John Bapst hopes to continue to play home games at the CIC in the future but there is no contract ensuring that possibility.

“They’ve got a certain set of criteria they need to meet to run the building, and it’s their decision,” he said. “We are there because they were willing to work with us. I certainly wish we could have a five-year contract or something like that but at this point we don’t so we’ll be hopeful to renegotiate and be part of the Cross Center again next year.”

O’Connell, a Bangor native who still lives in the city, sees events such as John Bapst basketball being important to the Cross Insurance Center’s connection to the community.

“For me local flavor and local feel is where it’s at and whatever we can do to preserve that whether it’s John Bapst or the University of Maine or the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame or anybody else, I’m all for keeping that kind of tradition in that building,” he said.

“But it’s just like anything else. Eventually it’s going to come with a price, I think, and hopefully we’ll be able to continue to work with them to preserve it.”

The John Bapst girls varsity basketball team entered Tuesday’s play with a 5-2 record good for ninth place in Class B North, while the John Bapst boys were 0-7.

“We’re hoping that the friendly confines of the Cross Insurance Center will be able to help our team [with some more wins],” O’Connell said.

Cross Insurance Center officials also announced that the venue will host the Maine Principals’ Association Northern Maine High School Basketball Tournament for Classes B, C and D in February for the seventh consecutive year.

The tournament is scheduled for Feb. 14-22.

“The Cross Insurance Center is very proud to host all of the many sporting events, one of the most important being John Bapst and the other tournaments that are played here. We look forward to maintaining the relationship that the CIC has had with John Bapst and the other local area high school teams as we continue to host these types of events,” Vail said.

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Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...