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NHL Hockey In XL Center? Consultant Report Says It's Unlikely

A 2006 study says retrofitting the arena isn't feasible

By Jeff Cohen

November 22, 2011

Last week, Howard Baldwin made a splash when he proposed putting more than $100 million into the XL Center with the goal of bringing an NHL hockey team back to Hartford. But as WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports, a report commissioned by the state in 2006 says that no amount of renovations could retrofit the arena to the standards of the NHL.

Baldwin is the chairman and CEO Whaler Sports & Entertainment. He says that a refurbished XL Center would create 1,500 new jobs a year and boost economic activity in downtown Hartford. Baldwin wants to update the arena's seating, concessions areas, mechanical systems, and surrounding streetscapes. And a video promoting his vision says the upgrade...

"...provides the economic foundation to enable NESE to pursue a National Hockey League franchise in Hartford."

But five years ago, the state's Connecticut Development Authority took a long look at the XL Center and a 2006 consultant's report had bad news: no amount of renovations to the XL Center will be enough to attract an NHL team.

"The study is fairly definitive if I remember it correctly in their conclusions that the actual structure itself -- it's 30-plus years old, there's not much you can do to that building to make it an attractive venue for any of the NHL teams."

That's Scott Frantz, a state senator who was the chairman of the CDA at the time.

The report says that the XL Center has some fundamental problems. Its amenities -- bathrooms, concourses, and concessions -- are either too small or too few in number, and there's really no way to change it. The main limiting factor is space.

Richard Mulready is the CDA's vice chairman. He praised Baldwin for his efforts and said the state will listen to his proposals. But the XL Center has some unavoidable structural problems. You just can't make it bigger.

"I think that Howard Baldwin's interest in the city of Hartford is commendable...But I think he's starting from several steps behind in the sense that the facility doesn't accommodate what the NHL would like to see in an NHL facility."

You can read the full consultant study on the website of the Connecticut Development Authority.

Reprinted with permission of Jeff Cohen, author of the blog Capital Region Report. To view other stories on this topic, search Capital Region Report at http://capitalregionreport.wordpress.com/.
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