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Connecticut Gov. Backs Short-Term XL Center Upgrades

XL Center

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont supports funding upcoming XL Center upgrades, but addressing the Hartford venue’s long-term future will require a separate solution.

Downtown Hartford’s XL Center is currently used for a variety of events and can still leverage a positive economic impact for the region, as was reported after its recent turn at hosting March Madness action. However, long-term upgrades have been identified as a need by local and state officials as the venue ages, but there has been a reluctance thus far to finance extensive renovations.

In what could amount to a short-term solution, Lamont is backing a plan that would put as much as $30 million annually toward XL Center improvements over two years. While a step in the right direction, that amount still does not approach dollar figures cited in the recent past–including an estimate as high as $250 million–as necessary long-term improvements to the arena.

Lamont’s administration is emphasizing that any options for long-term upgrades to XL Center still have to be weighed, with the governor reluctant to borrow for more substantial improvements. A public-private partnership for renovations being is one route that officials could pursue. More from the Hartford Courant:

Coming into office in January, Lamont vowed to put the state on a “debt diet” hitting the brakes on runaway borrowing for capital projects around the state. Borrowing through the sale of bonds has weighed increasingly on the state’s operating budget as Connecticut repays the debt.

On Wednesday, Lamont spokeswoman Maribel La Luz said: “Bonding is not the governor’s preference, but he understands the need to address critical maintenance issues to ensure the building remains a viable sports, music and entertainment venue in the short-term while looking at other options.”

Lamont also has his attention on the XL’s long-term viability.

“There have been a number of discussions about revitalizing and modernizing the space and the governor wants to explore all options, including a public-private partnership, to ensure that it’s done in the most cost-effective and efficient manner,” La Luz said.

XL Center originally opened in 1975, and is perhaps best known as the former home of the NHL’s Hartford Whalers, but it has remained an active venue for sports and other events since that franchise relocated to North Carolina in 1997. It is currently the home of hockey’s Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL), and hosts events for UConn athletics.

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