When Hartford leaders were planning a civic center in the early 1970s, there was considerable debate about where to build it. Some wanted it in the South Meadows, right off the highway. But wiser heads realized this would do very little for the city, and so chose to build it downtown.
They got it right. The XL Center (nee Hartford Civic Center) has been a source of vitality in downtown Hartford for nearly four decades, a reason to visit and to live there. If and when the building is replaced, the new structure should also be built in the downtown area.
As The Courant's Ken Gosselin reported, the Capital Region Development Authority, the quasi-public agency in charge of the building, is recommending both improvements to the current building and a study to determine if the 16,000-seat arena and exhibition hall should be replaced after its new 10-year management contract with Global Spectrum has run its course.
Both proposals make sense. Global Spectrum has begun $2.5 million in improvements it is paying for ranging from new flat-screen televisions to renovated concession areas. CRDA recommends another $35 million in major renovations -- new locker rooms, loge seating, marquees and possibly more restrooms. These improvements could begin next year, if approved by the State Bond Commission.
The study is essential. As CRDA said in its report to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, there must be a long-term vision to avoid sending good money after bad, to keep investing in a building that is well beyond its useful life. It may be possible to create a state-of-the-art facility on the current site, but its relatively small size argues against it. If we ever want another NHL team, it starts with a venue. The prospect of a new arena will open a discussion of where to put it.
Let's agree now that it be downtown.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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