June 6, 2005
By OSHRAT CARMIEL, Courant Staff Writer
For years, the most people could get was a glimpse of its construction
from the highway, or a far away look from a street, most often diverted
The Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford is now built, and
open. On Sunday, the general public got to walk inside and have their
say on the $271 million, skyline-altering project.
"It looks like a big ship," Evelyn
Aviles, 47, of Glastonbury, said as she strolled though the glass-paneled
atrium, her arm linked with her husband's.
Convention center officials estimate that 6,000 people went through
the convention center doors during the five-hour open house on a
warm Sunday. They came with cameras, water bottles and binoculars
and wandered about the empty convention center. Most everyone craned
their necks riding up the escalator.
When the opinions came, they were
mostly through single words: "Look!" "Wow!" "Huge."
Since builders broke ground on the center in May 2001, the building
has risen from a deep pit along the riverfront to a structure that
is 124 feet high and the length of about three football fields. It
is the largest convention center between New York and Boston.
Many who came Sunday said they'd
been planning on it for years. "You
see it in the distance, but you can't get close to it, and all of
a sudden you can go here, you can park here, and you can look around," said
Mikki Aganstata, 65, of Hartford.
"Rain or shine," said Joan Gervais, 70, of Hartford, "I
knew I was coming."
Gervais attended the opening of Constitution Plaza when it opened
decades ago, so it seemed fitting to see up close the newest addition
to the city's architecture.
Her husband, Bob Lincoln, snapped photos of the new city skyline
from the convention center's outdoor walkway. He angled his camera
just so, to include the convention center and the adjacent Marriott
hotel in the shot.
"This is the best view you can get," said
Chance Carter, 10, of Hartford, a self-described lover of architecture
who said he begged his mother to take him to the open house Sunday.
"You have a view of Travelers there, a view of East Hartford
and a view of downtown," Chance said as he stood in the center
of the atrium.
There were no exhibitions Sunday inside the 140,000-square-foot
hall. That didn't deter people from roaming the empty concrete-floored
room, assessing its potential.
"Frankly, I don't like the sound system," said Sherman
Paul, shortly after a band warmed up inside the vacant room. "I
think they'll need better sound control, particularly when it's full
Most spectators entering the room stepped in and halted suddenly,
as if stopped by a force shield. Then they looked around and took
in the room's size.
"You could do bicycle races and everything in here," one
man at the doorway said to his friend.
Will D'Aquila, 75, of West Hartford,
said that the convention center was a hit. His only critique: the
absence of "Front Street," the
planned entertainment and retail complex that was supposed to have
opened across the street from the convention center.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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