Web Sites, Documents and Articles >> Hartford Courant News Articles >

The Long And Winding Road To A Convention Center

May 29, 2005

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 million.

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 Connecticut.

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 projects.

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 over Indiana.

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. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
Powered by Hartford Public Library  

Includes option to search related Hartford sites.

Advanced Search
Search Tips

Can't Find It? Have a Question?