AUBURN — Sheila Plummer and Bob Gardner of Auburn came to the Norway Savings Bank Arena on Saturday to check it out.

“We have nobody who plays hockey,” said Plummer, a former hockey mom. They came to the open house and decided to watch St. Dom’s play.

They said they approved of the new, $8.5 million facility owned by George Schott’s Slapshot LLC and leased to the city of Auburn.

“It’s just awesome,” Plummer said. “I can’t get over what a great facility it is. To think Lewiston-Auburn has something in the caliber of this; I’m so happy.”

The couple admired the dual rinks. Youth hockey teams from Lewiston and Gardiner were playing in one; St. Dominic Academy and Scarborough High School were playing in the larger rink.

They watched from the large, warm, seating area that gives fans a great view of the game in comfort, with plenty of chairs and tables, televisions, a concession stand and beautiful restrooms.

Auburn’s new arena is “such a good thing,” Gardner said. He even said he didn’t care if it affects his property taxes.

“I’m too excited about the place, the good it’ll bring to the community,” Gardner said. “It’s so exciting to know people are coming from away. It was so difficult for schools to find ice time. This has opened up new doors. It’s just fantastic.”

Auburn City Manager Clint Deschene said Saturday the goal is to not affect property taxes. Financial forecasts have shown the arena will be self-sustaining.

The Norway Savings Bank Arena will be set up as an enterprise; if it makes a profit “it will never fall on us,” he said. “If there are losses we’ll have to talk about funding, but the goal is to break even.”

With numerous advertising sponsorships, “we’re doing good,” Deschene said. He was pleased with the crowd Saturday, the praise from first-time visitors. “We want to be known as the premier youth hockey facility.”

Beside him was arena General Manager Josh MacDonald. The grand opening allowed the rink “to bring the community in and celebrate the partnership with Norway Savings Bank,” which bought the rights to the arena’s name. The full parking lot and packed house also meant “it’s Saturday in hockey season,” MacDonald said.

Auburn residents have a reason to be proud, he said, adding that there’s nothing like the rink around. “It’s the only dual arena in the state” he said. It’s technical advances include walls lined with six big-screen televisions and free Wi-Fi.

“It’s comfortable and inviting. It’s warm. It’s bright,” MacDonald said. It’s a complex long overdue in the community, he said.

Edward Little High School hockey players Colin Benson and Zach Gosselin agreed. Asked about the facility, they both said, “I love it.”

Benson raved about the new locker rooms, more seating for fans than they’ve ever had. “It’s a sweet deal to look up and see all these fans,” Benson said.

Gosselin said the dual rinks allow two teams to play at the same time. “It really clears up ice times.” He loves the atmosphere. “With all the fans, the sound system, it’s a lot more fun to play.”

Norway Savings Bank President Patricia Weigel smiled as she surveyed the crowd Saturday. “We couldn’t be more pleased.”

The bank decided to become part of the arena after it opened a local branch. Norway Savings wanted to become a bigger part of the community, Weigel said.

As she watched friends meet friends and people make connections, the bank’s goal had been met, she said. “When I walk in here, it’s so much more than an ice rink,” Weigel said. “It’s truly a community facility.”

The open house will continue Sunday with free family public skating from 2 to 4 p.m. The arena is off Turner Street next to Shaw’s and JCPenney.

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