November 22 - 29, 2006
By MIKE MCGARRY, The Hartford News Staff Writer
From time to time, we read or hear wiseacres slam the Connec¬ticut Convention Center - the recently defeated candidate for Governor loved to rail against it - often just to have something to say, it seems.
It certainly has had a bit of a rough ride with “Front Street” on the back burner (now under construction) and parking garage signs/directions from hell (just fixed). The Union problems- brought much grinding of teeth and may end up costing the Mayor his job.
Nobody said it would be easy. Usually good-sized conventions book years ahead and few ever take a chance on these big halls until they are complete. Something must be said for the market, or the staff selling the space, for the seeming success so far. A team of the Convention and Visitor Bureau, the hotels and the Convention Center sales operation seems to be clicking pretty well. If there is petty bickering going on or any backbiting, your man on the street would hear of it and so far, nobody is talking trash (to us anyhow).
The toughest people to get to come into Hartford are those who left right after the troubles of the late 60’s. We all have heard windbags say, “I haven’t be over the bridge/mountain for 20 years.” Well, somebody is jamming’ the homeshows, car shows and even the prizefight. The recent carshow broke all records, and the wonderful statewide food/hotel show had a great second year. We tell everybody to come early, park on the street if possible and legal, and to wear comfortable shoes. Buy your beer at the Arch Street Tavern.
The real proof of the pudding is not just flat shows growing out of smaller halls, but the conventions that bring in fresh out-of-area bucks. The Catch 22 for the management of the center is that the real money for the center itself is in rentals for breakfast, lunch and dinner or just renting out space. Conventions big enough to make a real difference in the city or state are very competitive and usually tight with a buck - so, it’s a real balancing game.
Having seen some state meetings, like this week’s Connecticut Park and Recreation get together, grow nicely with sufficient space, your reporter thinks, yes, on balance, it’s working. Now, if out Mayor would just keep his …