2014-03-07 / In the News

Civic Center officials save nameplates

Nearly 2,000 were sold as part of a 1976-77 fundraiser and were fastened to seatbacks
By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

PORTLAND — A new renovated Cumberland County Civic Center has been open to the public for nearly three weeks now, ushering in a new era for the 37-year-old arena. But part of the building’s history still sits in a series of Ziploc bags in a corner of the arena.

As a way to help fund the $7 million cost of the Civic Center (equivalent to $32 million in 2013 dollars), back in the mid-1970s, Civic Center officials offered the public an opportunity to purchase nameplates to remember or honor loved ones.

The nameplates were on the seats for thousands of concerts, shows and basketball and hockey games until last year, when all of the arena’s seats were removed and replaced.

Mark Werner, the Civic Center’s box office manager, whose first job with the arena was to organize and keep financials for the name-the-seat campaign, said the project started in fall 1976 and ended in June 1977. He estimates nearly 2,000 seats were adorned with nameplates.

“It was a $100 cost. People could name their seat,” Warner said. “They could dedicate it to someone or in memory of (someone).”

Despite previous upgrades to arena seating, those nameplates, Warner said, stayed on the seats until last year, when 5,778 seats from North Berwick’s Hussey Seating were installed.

Now Civic Center officials are determining the best way to honor that history.

“We removed them all and they have been alphabetized as best we can,” said Roberta Wright, the Civic Center’s director of event services. “We are not exactly sure what we are going to do with them yet.”

Wright said Civic Center officials might hand them over to the Maine College of Art, which is located across the street, for its students to create some sort of art piece.

“We were very conscious of that history. It was painstaking to take those plaques off. It would have been easier to let them go with the seats, but Steve Crane, our general manager, had the foresight to not let that happen,” Wright said. “It is a good thing we were thinking about that history.”

Wright said some of the original seat sponsors have requested their nameplates back, but some sort of public display of the plaques is likely.

Warner said it is unfeasible to return many of the nameplates because the addresses for the people who purchased the seats originally may have changed.

An art piece featuring the nameplates, Werner said, “would be kind of cool.”

Wright said a final decision on what to do with the nameplates will have to wait a little bit longer.

“It’s something that is down the road at least until we get the operation up and running smoothly,” Wright said.

A new round of nameplates may be coming to the Civic Center seats. Wright said there has been some discussion of reintroducing the seat sponsorship program as a way to “offset some of the costs of buying the new seats.”

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