BANGOR – As the Queen City prepares to vote Wednesday on whether or not build a new $65 million arena and events center to replace the geriatric Bangor Auditorium, area residents report feeling strangely compelled to reject the measure when they see one of those black “No Arena” signs with crayonish-gold lettering.
“It’s bizarre,” said Susan Abernathy of Fruit Street. “The sign looks like it was painted by a middle school vandal, but I can’t help but feel awful about Bangor’s financial viability when I look at it.”
Ezra Stevenson, who lives in Ellsworth but visits Downtown Bangor regularly on business, agreed. “Now that I’ve seen that sign, I know this place could never sustain any sort of economic engine like a state-of-the-art, 6000-seat arena. I feel overcome with depression, as if I’ll have to settle for seeing ZZ Top outdoors for the rest of my life.”
The signs have been imbued with a special cheerfulness and optimism-sapping aura, says Ken Wicks, one of the leaders of the “No” campaign.
“When people see the word ‘arena,’ we want them to feel the crushing despair of rural economic blight,” said Wicks. “So we went full Darth Vader on these signs.”
As for their apparent low quality, Wicks makes no apologies. “The other side can afford to print fancy signs because they are funded by basically every business and corporate interest in the whole region, including Penn National Gaming,” he said. “We have an 82-year-old guy named Don, who has two cans of spray paint and one good eye.”
The ‘no’ campaign managed to prop up a few different-colored signs more recently, arguing that gambling revenue should be used not for entertainment, but to support schools or reduce taxes.
Those signs seem to evoke merriment rather than depression, since various state and local officials have been witnessed pointing and laughing hysterically at them.