The long-planned $100-million XL Center renovations addressing both aging infrastructure and aging fan accommodations may begin in January if the state releases some $65 million in bonding.
The interesting twist: the Capital Region Development Authority is moving forward under the assumption that the spring and summer will be free of arena dates–something that may be a little surprising to the AHL and The Hartford Wolf Pack, which is tentatively moving forward with a Feb. 5 start to the 2020-2021 season.
The proposed changes would overhaul the lower seating bowl, replacing aging equipment and expand the arena footprint with more integration with atrium and retail space off Trumbull Street. Adding the atrium space would also allow expansion of concourses and potentially turn XL Center into a destination. From the Hartford Courant:
How much of the renovation will be completed when events return to the arena isn’t clear. But on a walk-through Monday, [CRDA executive director Michael W.] Freimuth said he hopes the lower half of the XL Center will reopen with more loge seating, club space and bunker suites.
All are more attractive than general seating and command higher prices with their own food and drink service and, in the case of club seating and bunker suites, party space and restrooms. This also would relieve some of the often long lines in the concourse.
Bunker suites are on floor level and the other lower level premium seating are now preferred in modern arenas to the skyboxes of the 1970s because they bring fans closer to the action. The bunker suites would be carved out of an area now occupied by the arena’s old ice-making system. That system and the rink are near to being completed in a $10 million upgrade.
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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