Proposed renovations to the XL Center are drawing support in some circles, but the $250 million price tag could be an issue.
The downtown Hartford arena, which serves as home to the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack while hosting other events, is being eyed for a major upgrade in an effort to making it more competitive with similar venues. Among the changes that the Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA) is considering for the arena include overhauled concessions, concourses, and restrooms, as well as upgraded premium seating and other modernized offerings.
Sentiment in favor of the arena, particularly from various downtown business owners and some area residents, was expressed during a CRDA hearing on Tuesday. An issue that looms large for the project is funding, as the Connecticut State Legislature will likely need to sign off on the project.
Some officials are already expressing concerns about the $250 cost. More from The Hartford Courant:
Tuesday, there was already a sign that the plan will almost certainly face opposition in the legislature.
“The state simply can’t afford these kinds of projects at this fiscal moment,” Sen. Joe Markley, R-Southington, said, at the hearing. “Bonding and debt service has grown dramatically and terrifyingly … And $250 million or whatever the final price tag is, we can’t afford in these times.”
Markley, a conservative who has criticized the growth in bonding during Malloy’s tenure, said he questions how much ripple effect the arena has on downtown. He also doubts the makeover will turn around the arena’s money-losing record, about $3 million a year that must be made up by the state.
The $250 million plan was one of three options offered by a consultant last year. The other options were build a new arena at double the price, or keep the venue as is, essentially on a path to closure.
The XL Center first opened as the Hartford Civic Center in 1975. It served as the home of the NHL’s Hartford Whalers from 1980-1997.