The City of Bangor Parks and Recreation building is pictured in February 2023. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Bangor’s Parks and Recreation department has a clearer picture of what the community wants for a replacement or upgrade for Sawyer Arena at Hayford Park, and for the department’s headquarters on Main Street, after a series of public forums.

Both facilities were identified in the department’s master plan, released in 2021, as needing major upgrades or total replacement.

There seems to be a general consensus among those who attended the Tuesday and Wednesday night forums and who have responded to an online survey that the best option is to replace both buildings with a single new facility, according to director Tracy Willette.

Such a facility would offer an indoor skating rink, and the department’s offices, after-school programs and public gyms and gathering places, all in the same building, Willette said.

“We have really strong, positive public engagement so far that has really exceeded our expectations, and people seem to be really excited about the idea of building one new facility for both,” he said.

Combining the two facilities into one, multi-use facility would solve two problems.

Willette said participation is strong at Sawyer Arena, despite it only being in use for about half the year primarily for ice hockey and figure skating. Though the city has redone its locker rooms and seating, the rink itself is old and in need of upgrades.

The department’s headquarters at 647 Main St. are housed in the former Bangor Armory, which is old and not designed to house the department’s most popular offering there — it’s before and after school child care programming. The department has been there for more than 30 years, and Willette said it outgrew the space years ago.

If the city chooses to proceed with such a plan, the next step would be to figure out where the new building would be located within the city, and how much it could potentially cost.

An ideal location would be at Hayford Park, site of many of the city’s public recreation facilities including Mansfield Stadium, tennis and basketball courts, a skate park and the popular Beth Pancoe Aquatic Center.

Willette said they would look at all city-owned properties that could accommodate such a facility, as it might be too big to fit into the current footprint of Sawyer Arena.

“All options are on the table,” he said. “We’re just glad that the community seems to be really excited about what those options might be.”

There is still time to fill out the survey on Sawyer Arena and parks and rec headquarters. The survey, available online and facilitated by consulting firm BerryDunn, is open until May 31.

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Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.