Go Local: The XL Center should expand ties to the city
Hartford Courant Editorial
January 18, 2013
Is it time to put the "civic" back in the civic center?
Former Hartford councilman Mike McGarry thinks so, and he makes a good point. Hartford helped build the XL Center, formerly the Hartford Civic Center, commits valuable real estate to this public facility and endures traffic inconvenience when there is a big event. The facility ought to engage the city more than it does.
How might it do that?
Mr. McGarry suggests opening the ice to public skating on a regular basis, perhaps after Whale or UConn hockey games. As Winterfest in Bushnell Park clearly proved, people like to come downtown and skate.
The building's management should make a concerted effort to hire city residents, as it did when it opened in the 1970s. And it should consider selling Hartford and Connecticut products. Everybody's got hot dogs. What if the XL Center had Jamaican meat pies and South End grinders? Connecticut beers?
These and other steps would make the facility feel more a part of the community and make it more of a quality of life asset. It would also boost the local economy — one result of which would be that more local people could afford to attend the center's events.
There are a host of possibilities for further civic engagement — and, good news, some of them happen. The newly formed Capital Region Development Authority is weighing bids this month for new management of the XL Center and Rentschler Field. One of the questions being put to prospective managers concerns their vision for "community benefit," said Michael W. Freimuth, executive director of CRDA. It isn't the sole or even the most important criterion, but it needs to be in the mix. Fortunately, it is. "We get it," said Mr. Freimuth.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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