The task force appointed by Mayor Eddie A. Perez to look into the potential for a new arena in downtown Hartford met for the first time Wednesday, and did so behind closed doors.
Perez said it was an organizational meeting for the corporate leaders, elected and administrative state officials, and a labor representative whose advice he needs. Perez said the charge of the task force is to "gauge corporate support."
When asked why the committee did not meet in public, Perez said it doesn't have to because it's a task force, not a commission.
"A task force is an advisory group to the mayor," he said. "A commission is a publicly established group. And this is not a publicly established group."
According to state law, the office of the mayor is a public agency, as is "any committee of, or created by" that office.
In January, Perez presented the region's corporate leaders with the results of a consultant's study on whether to build a new arena and where to put it.
That study concluded that the right conditions are within reach for a new sports and entertainment arena to replace the aging XL Center, and that the best location would be at the center's current site.
Corporate support for such a center is "uncertain," the consultant said.
Before asking the legislature to fund a new arena, Perez assembled a task force to gauge whether there is enough corporate support to pay for suites, seats and advertising to make such a venture worthwhile.
That group's first meeting Wednesday was chaired by Andy Bessette, executive vice president and chief administrative officer of Travelers. Other members include officials from the Carpenters Union Local 43, Aetna, Webster Bank, Hartford Steam Boiler, Bank of America, XL Holdings, the MetroHartford Alliance, The Phoenix, United Technologies, The Hartford and Connecticut Bank and Trust Company.
The task force also includes state Sen. John Fonfara, D-Hartford, and representatives from the state Department of Economic and Community Development, the University of Connecticut Division of Athletics, and the office of House Speaker James Amann, D-Milford. Also in attendance were representatives of Northland AEG, the current operator of the XL Center.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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