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Hartford mulls XL Center future

XL Center renovations

Despite a $35 million renovation, the XL Center future is under debate in Hartford, where city officials are deciding whether to pour more money into the facility.

The former NHL venue — long live the Whalers! — is showing its age, and the renovation performed the last several months (which basically spiffed up the public spaces, like the concourses) is a stopgap measure at best. (Yes, we’re at the point where $35 million buys you a stopgap measure.) With plenty of competition from area casinos to land big-name musical acts, the thought is that more upgrades are needed to attract more collegiate and pro sports events.

There are three options on the table for the Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA), per the consultants: Make more improvements to the existing arena, expand the arena footprint to make room for larger concourses and amenities, or tear the current XL Center and start from scratch. From CT Now:

“If we don’t want to do any of these, then the fourth option comes,” Michael W. Freimuth, the CRDA’s executive director, said. “This building is on, for all intents and purposes, a slow glide path to closure. The current configuration just doesn’t make business sense. But I think we bought ourselves a little time to make this decision with the investment we just completed.”…

Moving the arena elsewhere isn’t an option, under the SCI study. The city has said it wants the arena to stay where it is, rather than leave a big, gaping hole downtown. The new location that would have made the most sense, Freimuth said, is off the table: Downtown North, where ground will be broken Tuesday on a minor-league baseball stadium…..

Whatever option is recommended by the CRDA’s board, the cost of a major redevelopment could easily run into the hundreds of millions of dollars and require a massive public subsidy.

Be prepared for a long debate on the future of the arena: any decision on the XL Center future will likely require the input of state aid for the project.

The arena is home to UConn basketball and AHL hockey.

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