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  • Writer's picturePaul Baker

Cross Insurance Center – Maine Black Bears

Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.29

Cross Insurance Center

515 Main St

Bangor, ME 04401

Year Opened: 2013 Capacity: 5,800


A New Den for the Black Bears

For decades, the University of Maine Black Bears played their home games at the on-campus Memorial Gym, affectionately known as “The Pit”. Unfortunately, the team outgrew this 1,800 seat home, which required almost a total makeover to bring it up to building and safety codes. From 1988 to 1992 the team played their home games at the old 6,000 seat Bangor Auditorium. In 1992 the team moved back to campus to play their games at Alfond Arena, the home of the school’s hockey teams. That move proved to be a difficult one for both the men’s and women’s basketball teams, as four teams had to share the facility, and the hockey teams were given preferential treatment.

With the completion of the $65 million Cross Insurance Arena in Bangor, the Black Bears basketball teams moved once more, this time back to downtown Bangor, 12 miles from the Orono campus on the site of the old Bangor Auditorium. The new arena aims to have the feel of a big-time basketball arena while being sized appropriately for the small central Maine market.

A member of the America East Conference, the Black Bears have yet to appear in the NCAA Tournament. Jeff Cross, who played 21 games with the Clippers in 1984, is the only UMaine alumnus to play in the National Basketball Association.

Food & Beverage 4

The Cross Insurance Center boasts a good array of concession choices for an arena of its size. There are several stands scattered around the concourse, which may or may not be open depending on the size of the crowd. Many of the stands feature local names and themes, including Queen City Gourmet, Blue Ox Grill, Tapas on the Penobscot, The Q Barbeque. Papa John’s Pizza also operates a stand here.

Pepsi products are featured at the Cross Insurance Center. Alcohol is not sold at UMaine games. All the typical arena foods are present and accounted for here at the Cross Insurance Center, but some items stand out from the crowd. If you feel particularly hungry, try the Penobscot Pounder, a ½ pound angus hamburger topped with poutine (for those not familiar, poutine is a Canadian delicacy featuring French fries topped with cheese curds and other toppings) and homemade bacon. Several variations on the typical French fry are available here, such as sweet potato fries, poutine, crab fries, and pickle fries. Should you run out of popcorn at any time during a game, bring your bag back to the concession stand and refill it for only two dollars.

My personal recommendation for a true central Maine experience is to try a W.A. Bean and Sons Red Snapper hot dog and a whoopee pie.

Atmosphere 2

With the average crowd at a Black Bears game only filling about a quarter of the arena, the atmosphere at a UMaine game is understandably laid-back. While some fans will enjoy the understated experience, fans who are looking for a loud and lively gameday presentation should look elsewhere.

All the typical college touches are here, including a (sometimes) rowdy student section, a pep band, cheerleaders and mascot. Videos are shown on the scoreboard located on the north end of the arena, with stats displayed on ribbon boards located at the top of the arena along either sideline. Fans who have visited the UMaine campus for a hockey game at Alfond Arena may be surprised and disappointed at the difference in atmosphere here.

Neighborhood 4

The city of Bangor is located in central Maine, boasting a population of just over 33,000. This makes Bangor the third largest city in the state. Located 12 miles from the University of Maine’s campus in Orono, the city got its start as a lumber town (explaining the 31 foot tall statue of Paul Bunyan in front of the arena).

Downtown Bangor has experienced a revival in recent years, with several small shops, businesses and restaurants taking up residence in what had become an abandoned downtown area. Today, the Hollywood casino is located right across the street from the Cross Insurance Center. Also, Bangor resident Steven King’s house is located not far from the arena, and is a popular stop for out-of-towners.

Fans 2

Maine averages just over 1,400 fans per game for their home games in Bangor. Despite the Cross Insurance Center’s location 12 miles from the Orono campus, there is a decent turnout by the student body on most nights. As you would probably expect from basketball fans from Maine, those in attendance are, for the most part, laid back, although they can make their presence known when the Black Bears start rolling.

Access 4

Bangor may be quite out of the way for any team traveling to the most northeastern corner of the United States for a game, but the Cross Insurance Center is very easy to get to. It is located just off of Interstate 395, which is a spur off of I-95. Located a block off the highway on Main Street, ample parking is located behind the facility.

Most fans will enter the building via the Southwest Entry Plaza, which deposits fans right onto the main concourse. There is another entry plaza on the southeast corner of the building, which accesses the arena at the floor level. The building features wide, clean concourses and restrooms which are more than adequate for the typical Black Bear crowd.

The concourse runs along the top of the seating bowl, which features individual red folding seats with cup holders. The seating bowl is laid out in a horseshoe fashion, with luxury boxes lining the top of the arena. All seats are close to the court and offer fantastic sight lines of the action.

Return on Investment 4

Maine Black Bears games are very affordably priced. Reserved tickets (sections 104-105 and 115-116) can be purchased for $13, with general admission seating (all other seats) priced at $11. Seniors and youths are admitted for only $6. If you attend a Black Bears game with a group of 20 or more, your tickets will cost just $5 per person.

Season tickets can be purchased for either the men’s or women’s teams for $120, or for both teams for $200 per seat.

Parking in the lot directly behind the Cross Insurance Center costs $5, with the lots a little further away free of charge. On many chilly Maine winter nights, the five-dollar charge may be money well spent.

With affordable concessions, a night of UMaine basketball is an affordable entertainment option for central Maine sports fans.

Extras 3

An extra point is awarded for the UMaine women’s basketball teams, which are treated on an even playing field here, and generally draw bigger crowds than does the men’s teams.

An extra point is awarded for the giant statue of Paul Bunyan located in the front lawn of the Cross Insurance Center. It provides a most unique approach to the venue, as well as providing a great photo opportunity before the game.

A final extra point is awarded for the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame, located on the arena’s concourse. You may not think it, but basketball plays an integral part in the state of Maine’s sporting culture. The Cross Insurance Center hosts the Maine High School Basketball playoffs every year, and exhibits from Maine’s basketball history are displayed here.

Final Thoughts

Maine will never be thought of as a basketball hotbed, and the campus’ location in the far northeastern corner of the country hardly makes it a popular destination for traveling basketball fans, but the Cross Insurance Center is a solid, modern facility in which to take in Division One basketball. It’s worth a visit by any dedicated basketball fanatic.

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