Ex-Gov. Rowland Played Vital Role In Convention Center Becoming
A Reality, But Don't Expect His Praises To Be Sung
May 29, 2005
By MIKE SWIFT, Courant Staff Writer
If John Grosvenor Rowland had died a mortal death instead of
a political one, it's a fair bet that the new Connecticut Convention
Center, or some part of it perhaps, would bear his name.
Instead, when the new convention center opens this week, the disgraced
ex-governor will still be in residence at the Loretto Federal Correctional
Institution in Pennsylvania. And many people closest to the project
are wondering whether they dare utter his name in public.
The task of building a convention center in Hartford has been a
two-decade odyssey under four governors, a journey bedeviled by political
hackdom and turf battles between the Capitol and city hall. Without
Rowland, the convention center would never have come to a successful
conclusion, many close to the project say.
When the New England Patriots jilted Rowland in 1999 and reneged
on plans for a stadium in Hartford, the governor used his political
capital to get a reluctant legislature to keep Adriaen's Landing
alive, even lobbying individual members of the Hartford City Council
to support it.
Rowland had little to do with the details of the $271 million center,
once design and construction began. What he did was force a group
of players with very different motivations, whose efforts needed
to be aligned, to work as a team and to keep the project moving.
When problems cropped up, Rowland
convened a meeting in his office that participants called "the A-Team." At
various times, the group included developers fueled by ego or money,
and an alphabet soup of state bureaucracies with very different
motivations. What the A-Team meetings did, several former participants
said, was force each person to account, face to face, to a then-powerful
governor for their progress.
Dean Pagani, Rowland's former chief of staff, attended many of those
meetings. Now an official with the Capital City Economic Development
Authority, Pagani said it was an odd feeling to assemble a guest
list for the convention center grand opening that did not include
Rowland, Pagani said, will be well aware of what is happening that
"I remember one day [with Rowland], counting the votes in the
Senate in terms of thinking ahead to an impeachment trial," Pagani
"I said, `I can't believe
we're doing this.' He said, `Neither can I. And what really bothers
me is that this is what people are going to remember and not all
the good stuff.'
"He'll definitely be thinking
about the convention center and the grand opening; it's something
he's thinking about all the time. He believes he built a good record
as governor. And his mistakes - if I can use that term - have really
sullied that record. I imagine it's something he's going to live
with for the rest of his life. The irony will not be lost on him
that day. Nor will it be lost on the people who are going to be
there [at the opening ceremony]."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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