Darryl Antonacci of Princeton, New Jersey, is followed off the ice by Jim Cain after a ceremonial puck drop at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston before a Maine Nordiques game Nov. 4, 2019. Antonacci is expected to take over ownership of the Colisee from Cain on April 1. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file photo Buy this Photo

Dr. Darryl Antonacci wants to bring the Androscoggin Bank Colisee up to 2020 standards.

“My principle has always been there’s always a market for excellence in whatever is done,” Antonacci, who will become the building’s owner on April 1, said. “I brought the (Maine Nordiques) originally because it was a good fit with the arena. As you know in the (North American Hockey League), Johnstown and us have the main arenas on the East Coast in the league. That’s how it started.”

The Colisee seats 3,682 for hockey events, according to the Colisee website, while the Johnstown Tomahawks play in the 4,000-seat Cambria County War Memorial Arena in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

The other five teams in the division — Jamestown Rebels, Maryland Black Bears, New Jersey Titans, Northeast Generals and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights — all play in buildings that seat less than 2,000 people for hockey.

Maine Nordiques coach Nolan Howe said he’s found that when Antonacci puts his mind to something, it usually gets done.

“Having working for him for the last seven years now, he’s much more than an owner to me, he’s a lifelong friend and mentor,” Howe said. “I have all the respect and confidence in him in the world. I trust him when he said he’s all in from day one. I think he continues to put money where his mouth is, so to speak, and invest in our future — really be behind all the different projects we have working. He’s pleased with the people who are doing it. We are really fortunate to have him as an owner.”

The more that Antonacci visited the 62-year-old facility, he knew he could mold it to his liking.

“As I started going there and seeing more of the arena and the games, there was a lot of that potential for that arena to take it to a much higher level, not just for hockey but other events. But it takes a significant amount of investment,” Antonacci said. “It got to the point where I wanted to invest into the arena, but I wanted to make sure I managed it the way I want to get things done.

“So, it was a natural process of pushing forward and trying to provide better services not only for the NAHL team, but (also) the youth teams and the academy we are trying to put together.”

Players and fans stand for the singing of the National Anthem prior to the start of a recent hockey game between the New Jersey Titans and Maine Nordiques at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston on February 1, 2020. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

The main thing Antonacci wants to improve is the fan experience for every event that happens inside the Colisee walls. While nothing is set in stone yet, some of the potential changes include moving the concession stands to the main hallway and to the backside of the building, while using the current food court as a sports lounge. Another possibility is turning the Nordiques’ gym on the top floor into a club lounge, where there could be a buffet and live music before games and music after games.

Antonacci also wants to add more video boards around the arena, and maybe even outside the building.

“We are trying to provide services for people who like to go to the arena, just for those services, not only for hockey — ‘Hey, the football game is over at Lewiston High School, maybe we will go to the arena upstairs to the bar lounge, there might be a band playing,’” Antonacci said. “Things like that, we are trying to be creative, out-of-the-box, revamp that facility to the point where it’s a destination for the county, not just for hockey but other events, like we are trying to do esports and other things to support the arena.

“All this takes investment and we need to paint the arena, redo the entryway and change the concession setup, the upstairs bar setup.”

Antonacci said the Class A boys hockey state championships bring large crowds to the Colisee, and the arena needs to provide services to make sure those hockey fans become regular patrons.

With the Nordiques’ U18 and U16 teams coming in next year, the first renovations will be adding more locker room space in the back of the building, possibly by taking out the ice compressor and adding a new one, which will open more space in the back.

Antonacci said a girls team might be added to the Maine Nordiques Development Program Prep Academy.

The coronavirus has canceled some events this month and next month at the Colisee, which allows Antonacci and his staff to focus on a renovations plan.

“With the health situation of the country, it’s not a great situation at all to cancel these events, but at the same time it gives us the time now to regroup and do any renovation work we need to do in the spring or summer,” Antonacci said.

As he did early this month when it was reported that he was going to purchase the Colisee, Antonacci stated that outgoing owner Jim Cain will stay on as a consultant. Antonacci said he also has reached out to others who have experience running similar-size buildings.

“I do have some people that I have been talking to, getting advice from, companies who did run arenas of this size,” Antonacci said. “We are trying on how we can look to book events there, beyond the local events, and even for sponsorship. We have tremendous support for local sponsorship, but we can do even better with some national sponsorships with different companies.”


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