State funding could be in play for upgrades to Hartford’s XL Center, as Connecticut governor Ned Lamont proposes allocating $55 million toward a larger renovation plan.
Located in downtown Hartford, the aging XL Center has been the subject of debate for several years. After a $250-million renovation proposed a few years ago failed to gain traction among state lawmakers, the focus has shifted toward a smaller $100-million plan that would focus primarily on upgrading the arena’s lower bowl.
There could be a substantial funding boost toward that project, with Lamont proposing $55 million over two years for XL Center upgrades as part of a capital improvement plan unveiled Wednesday. Spread out evenly over two fiscal years, the $55 million would factor into a larger funding package to pay for renovations. In order to be allocated toward the project, the funding proposal will require approval from the state legislature and authorization by the state bond commission. The commission has already signed off on $35 million for the project, with officials leaving the door open for a private partner to possibly participate in the renovation. More from the Hartford Courant:
The $55 million — $27.5 million for the current fiscal year and the same in the next — would still need to be approved by state lawmakers and authorized by the State Bond Commission. If it is, however, it would be added to $35 million already backed by the bond commission for the project, bringing the total close to the $100 million.
Michael W. Freimuth, executive director of the Capital Region Development Authority, which oversees the arena, said CRDA is studying future market demand and what that might mean for revenue from seating, concessions and other sources.
Operations that produce revenue are likely to be the parts of the arena operation that would most reasonably attract private investors.
“Regardless, public dollars will remain necessary yet unappealing to private investors for such items as mechanical, electrical and plumbing and upgraded security, rigging and IT needs,” Freimuth said, in an email.
Should the renovation move forward, it could result in new premium seating options being added to the XL Center’s lower bowl. 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. In addition to hosting select games for UConn basketball and hockey, XL Center is also home to minor-league hockey’s Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL).
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