Cash-starved Connecticut considering $250m arena renovation because millennials or something

The state of Connecticut is considering spending $250 million to upgrade Hartford’s XL Center (formerly the Hartford Civic Center) and everybody likes it except for the part about coming up with $250 million:

Supporters of transforming downtown’s aging XL Center arena lined up at a hearing Tuesday to back the $250 million project, but the uncertainty of whether the money will be there to pay for it hung over the meeting…

There is growing resistance to using bonds — essentially the state’s credit card — for big ticket projects when funding is being cut to social services, road improvements and school construction…

“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.”

I’ve been to the Hartford arena, and I’m sure renovations would be nice (though the place is hardly falling down). But Connecticut already has plenty of other concert venues (the arena in Bridgeport, the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods casinos, there’s no major pro sports team using the Hartford arena, and while the arena is currently losing about $3 million a year, spending $250 million to save $3 million a year is beyond stupid, so what’s the urgency, exactly?

The authority has said the renovations are necessary if the city hopes to bring major league hockey back to Hartford, absent since 1997 when the Hartford Whalers left…

“If we don’t take action and we leave the thing as it is, how can we attract new businesses, new people, millennials?” said Scott St. Laurent, secretary of the Hartford Whalers Booster Club, who was wearing a Whalers jersey. “How can we attract them to downtown if we don’t give them anything to do?”

There you have it: Connecticut is considering spending $250 million on arena renovations because millennials — who are already moving to downtown Hartford in droves — won’t go downtown unless they can watch an imaginary hockey team. At least this would make everybody forget about the Yard Goats fiasco, though I’m not sure in a good way.


8 comments on “Cash-starved Connecticut considering $250m arena renovation because millennials or something

  1. Actually, nothing in the proposal indicated that the $3 million a year subsidy would no longer be necessary. There was no promise that concert activity would increase–the report admitted that the casinos had that locked up–or that a major-league sports team was likely to come.

    • No promises, but the initial report from last year, as linked above, expressed hope that a renovated arena would break even. Which would still be a terrible, terrible return on investment for state taxpayers.

  2. I know you are too, but I’m always a little skeptical of these kinds of real estate ads/articles like the Hartford one. Given that most, if not all, of these “housing units” are probably highly subsidized–I’m not sure that building about half the stated goal of apartments is really anything to get that excited about.

    And I do like the Hartford area. Beautiful state, not really around that arena though.

  3. Its hard to draw that comparison, there are plenty of people (such as myself) that would support an NHL team that have zero interest in supporting the Wolfpack

  4. I’ve never been entirely clear as to what, exactly, is wrong with the Civic Center (er, XL Center) arena. I understand there had been issues with the icemaking infrastructure, as well as with the locker rooms, but I believe those were taken care of a couple years ago when they made some minor renovations.

    It’s true the casinos have vacuumed up many of the concerts, but more elaborate renovations aren’t going to change that. The Wolf Pack isn’t drawing people, either. The UConn basketball teams are the biggest consistent draw. But each plays only half, or fewer, of their home games there, what with Gampel over in Storrs, and given the athletic department and coaches prefer playing there.

    There’s only one reason to substantially renovate, or rebuild, the Civic Center (er, XL Center), and that’s if an NHL team comes in. But good luck with that! We had one of them, 20 years ago, and they couldn’t make it work in Hartford. Given that experience, what team is going to want to move to Hartford? What would make the NHL want to put an expansion team there … when there are other, more hockey-centric cities which already have big, shiny new arenas waiting for them (Quebec City, anyone)?

    I remain floored by the repeated insistence … in the face of any facts to the contrary … that the Civic Center (er, XL Center) “needs” major renovations, or worse, a rebuild. It’s gone beyond ridiculous. I just can’t figure the angles here, beyond a desire just to spend public dollars on … well, something, anything, in Hartford.

    BTW how’s that Yard Goats stadium going? Who here doubts it will be ready for baseball in April 2017?

    • Half way thu your complaining about the rebuild of the xl center and why should we you answered your own question and that’s the return of the NHL

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