Governor Dannel Malloy has included $125 million in his capital budget as part of an effort to remake the XL Center in downtown Hartford. The state says this is half of what is needed to bring the stadium up to date, but the plan could face Republican opposition.
Let’s start with the big question. No, this is not a renovation designed to bring in an NHL hockey team anytime soon.
Instead, it’s a minimum three-year, $250 million construction project that could eventually bring in more revenue, save on operational expenses, and make an entirely new concourse for fans and concert goers.
"The $250 essentially reboots the building," said Mike Freimuth, executive director of the Capital Region Development Authority, which is overseeing the project. He said there were three options. Knock it down, do nothing, or do this: fix it in place.
Here's how Freimuth described the goal: "Can we transform the bones to a new building while we operate?"
So that’s the plan.
Last week, Malloy made a splash when he wrote a letter to the NHL suggesting that the XL Center could be a home for the New York Islanders, who may be looking for a place to play.
But Freimuth said the stadium is nowhere near NHL ready.
“As the building sits and stands today, it will not meet the NHL standards," Freimuth said. "That is to say if the Islanders wanted to come up here, we’ve got some work to do.”
That said, the $250 million project would make the arena more acceptable to the NHL, but it would still take more investment to get there.
But investment is exactly the problem for people like state Republican Sen. Joe Markley.
"The state of Connecticut doesn’t have any money," Markley said. "That fact has to sink in with us. And we can’t afford to keep putting into projects like the XL Center."
He also said it’s time for a reality check.
"Circumstances have turned very much against that civic center," he said. "The Whalers are never coming back, and Elvis is never coming back."
Markley said there’s significant Republican opposition to the governor’s proposal, which has to get legislative approval.