By Jonathan P. LaBonte
Mayor of Auburn
As we hit a high point in the hockey season here in Auburn, and with the Lion’s Tournament, America’s longest-running youth hockey tournament, kicking off this weekend, an update on the status of the city’s Norway Savings Bank Arena (NSBA) is warranted.
For anyone who follows city developments, or local hockey, you’ve likely heard that the general manager of NSBA has given his notice and will be moving on.
Marc Gosselin, who has served as GM of the arena and executive director of sports tourism for a little less than two years, announced last week he had accepted a front office position with the NHL franchise in Columbus, Ohio.
While it is always difficult to manage transitions of leadership at a city asset as important as the arena, this new career opportunity for Marc is not only a dream come true for him (how many L-A kids growing up around hockey always wanted to get to the NHL), but also a reminder of how much Marc brought to the operation of the arena.
Those spending the most time and treasure in and around the arena know the difference Marc made to the environment there, compared to what he inherited from previous management of the facility. His support team is first class and have brought nothing but positive comments about everything from the quality of the ice surface for players to the improved customer service for fans attending games there.
And most importantly for the taxpayers who hold much of the financial risk in operating an arena like this, Marc’s relationship building and customer focus helped to restore the confidence of our many sponsors and brought new partners to the table.
Marc brought a unique background to his role not only at NSBA, but also as the city’s first director of sports tourism. Having worked with professional sports teams like the Lewiston MAINEiacs and Maine Red Claws, Marc understood the culture you need to build within the staff team and with your community and corporate partners to make the whole thing work.
Partnering with developer George Schott to build the arena wasn’t just about meeting an ice-time need for Maine’s largest youth hockey program or for five high school programs, it was about building an asset that could attract people and events to Auburn and the spending in restaurant, hotels and other area businesses that come with it.
The fact that we are now about to host our first trade show, Maine’s largest camping and RV show, and have hosted multiple NCAA Division 1 UMaine women’s hockey games, attracting three to four times their average home attendance in Orono, is a demonstration that we are diversifying revenues to operate the arena while continuing to grow the level of visitor spending in our community.
The Auburn City Council and the public have gained a renewed confidence in the arena, thanks to Marc’s leadership and the work of the rest of the team their under his direction. The fact that our small-town arena had a GM who used that experience to launch a career opportunity into the NHL also bodes well for what comes next for the arena and the potential of sports tourism here.
I hope all of you will join me in thanking Marc for his tireless effort and commitment to improving the bottom line at the Norway Savings Bank Arena, as well as raising its profile as a hockey and event venue in the State of Maine. And I hope you join me in a vote of confidence for the team remaining at the arena, letting them know they have the community’s support as we work through this transition period.