The City of Portland will host a ribbon cutting ceremony on Saturday, June 12, 2021 at 4:00 PM to officially commemorate the renaming of the Portland Expo as the James A. Banks, Sr. Exposition Building. City officials, members of the Banks family, and Portland Sea Dogs officials will be in attendance.
On February 3, 2020, the City Council voted to approve the renaming of the Expo in honor of James A. Banks, Sr. after his work to save the facility, which was built in 1914 and is the second oldest arena in continuous operation in the United States. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City was not able to host a dedication ceremony after the Council’s action.
In 1981, the City was struggling with how to reduce the deficit caused by public operation of The Expo. According to an article printed in the Portland Evening Express (Jan. 29, 1981), then-Portland City Manager Tim Honey had begun to make plans to sell or demolish the cavernous gymnasium after running a deficit of almost $89,000 related to its operations in 1980. The most significant opposition to the proposed sale or demolition came from the Advisory Committee of the Portland Exposition Building, led by James Banks. In this position, Mr. Banks spearheaded the fight to give operational responsibility for The Expo to the School Board and protect the City's primary venue of school sports programs and activities. Mr. Banks, as Chairman of the Portland School Committee during The Expo's rescue and revitalization, was instrumental in its incredible turnaround. By 1986, his work had been deemed a success; over $200,000 in improvements had been made to the once run-down, leaking building, including renovations to the gym floor, concession stands, and locker rooms. The ceiling was lowered to accommodate musicians, and the Expo was showing a $20,000 net operating surplus (Press Herald, June 6, 1986).
Mr. Banks was also a champion of the Portland Sea Dogs, and the Troubh Ice Arena, having served as a member of the committee to build the Ice Arena in 1983, a member of the committee to upgrade the Portland High baseball field, which is now Hadlock Field, and a member of the committee to restore the lights on the Portland High Stadium, which is now Fitzpatrick Stadium in 1986. He also established the Holiday Classic Tournament at the Expo to benefit the Portland High basketball program in 1986.
He dedicated his life and career to public service by serving in the military and law enforcement, as well as through his personal commitment to ensuring the education of children and to the quality of life of the people in his church, community, and the state as a whole.
Mr. Banks served for four years in the United States Air Force, four years in the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, and for 31 years as a member of the Maine Department of Public Safety, where he retired in 2000 as a Sergeant in the Bureau of Liquor Enforcement.
He was elected to serve on the Portland School Board in 1979 and served for five and a half years. He was elected again in 1990, this time serving for a 12 year period in which he held the position of Chairman three times. In 2007, he was appointed by Governor John Baldacci to the State Board of Education where he served until 2013, and was the Chairman for two years.
Unfortunately, Mr. Banks died on February 18, 2020 at the age of 80 after a hard-fought battle with cancer.