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Renovated Cumberland County Civic Center ready to reopen in Portland

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Renovated Cumberland County Civic Center ready to reopen in Portland

PORTLAND — Showing off the smaller details in the $33 million renovation of the Cumberland County Civic Center gave architect Michael Johanning great pleasure on Friday, Feb. 7.

"There are a lot of simple things, like lighter colors to match the concrete so it blends in," said Johanning, a senior associate at WBRC Architects and Engineers in Portland.

The Civic Center, expanded by 37,000 square feet and with more than 118,000 existing square feet renovated, will reopen Friday with the 24th annual Maine Home, Remodeling and Garden Show.

In a 30-minute tour, Johanning pointed to safer hand and seat railings that are also less intrusive to the view; storage areas created by expanding the 37-year-old building about 18 feet toward Spring Street, and the wider concourses created by redesigning the concessions and restroom areas.

"We ran into space constrictions, we had to be creative in how to find solutions," Johanning said.

More obvious are the new, three-tiered premium suites at the Free and Spring street corners, opposite Center Street; the enclosed entrance from Free Street; expanded box office, and the gleaming new entrance at Spring and Center streets.

Gone are the entrance areas exposed to the elements, something Johanning said added maintenance costs to Civic Center operations.

"How quickly can you load and unload one show?" was one of the questions Johanning said he asked himself during planning stages of the renovation and expansion, when he attended events to see what improvements were needed.

The need for more speed means the single loading bay on Center Street has been replaced by four bays angled to the slope of the street between Spring and Free streets.

A $33 million bond, estimated to cost $55 million in principle and interest, was approved by county voters in 2011. Construction work began in August 2012 with the expansion of office space, but the bulk of the work had to wait until the conclusion of the 2012-2013 Portland Pirates hockey season.

Sports fans and concertgoers will notice expanded seating areas that better comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act; telescoping platforms on the Center Street end to provide 220 more seats for concerts; nearly doubled restroom capacity, and lounge areas with food and beverage service providing views of the city on the Spring Street side.

Fixed-seat capacity is 5,778, a slight reduction Johanning said gives more room to visitors with accessibility issues. Seven new platforms, each with room for up to 10 people, were added. Accessibility was also improved with a new escalator next to the steps leading to the Spring and Center streets entrance, and three elevators throughout the building.

Athletes and performers will notice 865 square feet of new locker room space, and a new temporary office for concert promoters. A dedicated first-aid area with nearby street-level access to Spring Street was added, as were three more offices on the Center Street end.

Nearly all the building's mechanical systems were replaced and the building was converted to natural gas for heating and cooling. Even with the expanded space, Johanning said the conversion is expected to save on energy costs.

Cianbro was the general contractor for the project, and almost 1,100 people were involved in the design and construction.

After the home show, the calendar will be quickly filled at the Civic Center, including high school basketball tournaments played on a new court manufactured by Robbins Sports Surfaces, an Ohio company that makes floor systems for NBA and NCAA teams.

The building schedule will stay busy through the fall, after Civic Center trustees and the Pirates agreed on a five-year lease at the end of last month. The team will finish the regular season in Lewiston, but postseason games in Portland are a possibility.

Completed in 1977, the Civic Center originally cost $7 million. More than 17 million people have attended concerts and events.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.