May 1984: Preliminary feasibility study completed for downtown
Hartford convention center. Study concludes "there is sufficient market
potential to attract a significant number of conventions." Estimated
cost: $32 million.
1985: The Greater Hartford Convention & Visitors
Bureau forms a task force to study the idea of a convention center
and to advocate for its construction in Hartford.
February 1988: New preliminary
study for the Hartford Convention Center Task Force sets the cost
at $106.9 million, not counting land acquisition. Task force proposes
a site north of I-84 at the intersection of Trumbull and Main streets,
now a city-owned site commonly known as "12-B."
Spring 1988: Legislature authorizes $20 million in bonds to buy
land for convention center.
Dec. 21, 1988: A preliminary development
board votes to formally recommend that the state build a convention
center, to be called the "Connecticut Convention Center." Board
says the state should create a new state authority to build it.
January 1990: State convention center authority begins work of selecting
a site and building the center. Anticipated cost has risen to $150
October 1991: After spending nearly
two years and $850,000 - including about $160,000 in legal fees
- the state convention center authority has not even finalized
a list of possible downtown sites. "We've
just wasted a lot of time and money," says one angry city councilman.
February 1992: After an arduous
two-year process, the convention center authority manages to narrow
its list of sites to two: 12-B north of I-84, and the "Tishman site," land
north of Allyn Street between the Civic Center and Union Station.
Both sites are still vacant in 2005.
March 1992: Hartford Democratic state Sen. William A. DiBella unmasks
his alliance with Las Vegas gambling entrepreneur Steve Wynn, who
offers to build a $350 million casino, convention center and hotel
complex in Hartford with his own money.
March 11, 1992: Backed by DiBella,
Wynn testifies at the Capitol about the casino/convention center
proposal. "If you can bring
in an operation that will be large enough to create a destination
in Hartford coupled with a convention center, coupled with a major-league
hotel, you create something that when the other wave of states come
in, they're going to have to compete with that," DiBella says.
But Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. vows to veto any bill that expands
gambling in Connecticut.
March 26, 1992: Saying that planning
for a convention center has "gotten
out of hand," Weicker puts the work of the state authority on
hold, and decides to study the health of the financially ailing Hartford
Civic Center instead. "People are scrambling around, [saying]
we ought to stick something here or stick something there, we ought
to have gambling here or no gambling there. I mean, the thing was
totally disorganized," Weicker says.
December 1992: Hartford's mayor, Carrie Saxon Perry, joins Weicker
in vowing to oppose a combined casino/convention center.
May 1993: Plans for a casino/convention center in Hartford die after
Weicker cuts a deal with the Mashantucket Pequots to allow slot machines
at Foxwoods, with the state getting a 25 percent cut in the revenue.
But the money stops if slot machines go anywhere else. Bill authorizing
Hartford casino never comes up for a vote in the General Assembly.
June 1993: Weicker and the legislature pull the plug on the convention
center authority after the authority spent more than $1.3 million
without even choosing a site. The authority spent more than $640,000
on legal fees to three well-connected law firms, including $594,043
in payments to the firm of its principal lawyer, Richard H. Goldstein.
At Weicker's request, the legislature cancels $18 million in remaining
bond authorizations for the Hartford convention center.
March 26, 1997: The Hartford Whalers spurn Gov. John G. Rowland's
offer to build a $150 million arena and announce they are leaving
Dec. 23, 1997: Rowland declares "this is Hartford's time" and
promises "aggressive" planning aid from the state. Rowland
appoints Lt. Gov. M. Jodi Rell and a committee to study downtown
and recommend a series of development projects.
March 19, 1998: Based on the findings of Rell's committee, Rowland
proposes a $350 million development plan for Hartford, including
a new convention center, 1,000 new housing units, development on
the riverfront and other projects. New state authority would run
projects and build convention center.
May 6, 1998: Legislature authorizes $155 million for a new convention
center, but says the project needs to find $210 million in private
financing. As part of the funding package, the legislature creates
the Capital City Economic Development Authority, the state entity
charged with building a convention center and other downtown development
May 13, 1998: A crowd packs the
city council meeting chambers as Phoenix CEO Robert Fiondella presents
his vision for "Adriaen's
Landing." The 33-acre site would feature a domed 40,000-seat
stadium and a convention center straddling the Whitehead Highway,
as well as a science museum including a replica of the historic ship
USS Hartford above I-91. The densely packed site would also include
restaurants, shops and apartments.
Summer 1998: Hartford Mayor Michael P. Peters and other leaders
talk publicly about building an open-air, NFL-size stadium along
with a convention center at Adriaen's Landing and trying to attract
the New England Patriots, who are having trouble securing public
money for a new stadium in Massachusetts.
Nov. 13, 1998: Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Rowland huddle for
several hours, part of a series of talks about the possibility of
the team moving to Adriaen's Landing.
Nov. 19, 1998: Rowland and Kraft announce a deal in principle to
move the Patriots to Hartford. The Patriots would finance a $50 million
hotel adjacent to the convention center.
April 30, 1999: Facing likely delays in the completion of the stadium,
and with financing in hand from the NFL and the state of Massachusetts
for a new stadium in the Bay State, Kraft scuttles plans to move
the team to Hartford. The action puts Adriaen's Landing and its convention
center in grave doubt.
June 9, 1999: With Rowland pushing, the legislature approves $455
million in funding for Adriaen's Landing. The plan calls for a domed
stadium for University of Connecticut football, as well as the convention
center and a retail and entertainment district.
Nov. 11, 1999: The final arrangement of the convention center and
the rest of Adriaen's Landing emerges, as Rowland says that the football
stadium for UConn will be built in East Hartford, freeing space on
the Hartford riverfront for the convention center.
January 2000: The state begins acquiring land on the convention
center site. The estimated cost has reached $190 million.
May 2, 2000: Legislature provides final approval for Adriaen's Landing,
backing $529 million in funding for a football stadium in East Hartford,
a convention center in Hartford and a retail and entertainment district
to be developed by a private developer.
May 31, 2001: Ground is broken for the convention center.
Nov. 10, 2001: Old headquarters for Connecticut Natural Gas is imploded,
clearing space for the new convention center.
Aug. 30, 2003: The new $91.2 million Rentschler Field opens in East
Hartford, with 38,109 fans cheering UConn football to a 34-10 victory
June 2, 2005: Connecticut Convention Center, with a final estimated
cost of $271 million, is expected to officially open to the public.
The $81 million adjacent Marriott Hartford Downtown hotel is slated
to open in August.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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