SBD/May 5, 2014/Facilities

City Of Hartford Facing Challenge In Whether To Renovate Or Replace XL Center

XL Center's current $35M renovations described as a "Band-Aid"
What happens to the XL Center is "going to be hard-fought, messy and eventually laid in front of the state legislature or even state voters," according to Jeff Jacobs of the HARTFORD COURANT. The future of the XL Center "affects the crown jewels of state sports -- the UConn basketball programs -- not to mention the future of professional hockey." Capital Regional Development Authority Exec Dir Michael Freimuth said, "Our goal right now is to answer the first big question: Is there a future for the existing building? Is there any remote possibility of investing in this beast and making it work?" He added, "If the conclusion is we can do this for $150-200 million, OK, let's go for it. We would go and try to sell it next year. ... Or if maybe it's not a $200 million exercise, it's a $400 million exercise. Then one of two things is ahead of us: Tear it down and go dark for a couple of years or find a new location. Those questions are much harder." Jacobs notes the $35M in improvements, which are "getting underway, is a Band-Aid," and that "took some work to get the legislature to approve." Freimuth said, "We know from conversations with the NHL the building today does not meet the standards. We know UConn is not happy with the building." Jacobs notes as a way to "create revenue, the city is currently considering the sale of the parking garage on Church Street and, depending on what a potential new owner wanted to do with the property, could complicate matters for what could be done with the XL Center." One matter Freimuth feels "fairly confident about is future configurations will stress revenue above number of seats" (HARTFORD COURANT, 5/5).

AN ARTIST'S MUSE: In Hartford, Kenneth Gosselin noted the XL Center renovation "presents plenty of challenges: dealing with season-ticket holders whose seats must be moved to make way for new premium boxes; ordering custom-made parts because heating and cooling systems are so old; and figuring how to rig scaffolding so work can be done around events." In addition, there are "two murals hung high above" the arena's northwest entrance that must be "carefully taken down for the renovations." Trouble is, they "are large -- the biggest is 16 feet by 10 feet -- and it will be tough even getting them out of the building." The murals "aren't being used in the makeover of the XL's concourse, so now new homes must be found for them, difficult because of their size." But there is "another reason to handle these murals with care: they could be worth over a million dollars." CRDA Venue Dir Kimberly Hart said, "We didn't know anything about them. We were literally talking to staff in the building, and they said they were by a famous artist and they were worth a lot of money." She added that a "potential location for one of the murals could be the Connecticut Convention Center, but no decisions have been made." Hart said that the murals also could "return to a city sports arena should a new one be built in the future" (HARTFORD COURANT, 5/4).
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