Gov. Ned Lamont wants money to fix up Hartford’s XL Center.
It’s part of his budget proposal, and the request is meant to spark a $100 million renovation of the 45-year-old building in downtown Hartford.
There’s already some money allotted for the renovation -- around $35 million previously was set aside by the state for the XL Center. Now Lamont wants the state to borrow $55 million more to get the project going. The rest of the planned $100 million would come from any revenue generated from a private source or a new investment in the arena -- like a restaurant.
That’s not something bond committee member Chris Davis will support.
“We keep hearing that there’s talks of potentially doing private partnerships, but I fear that we’d be throwing this money at it, basically putting the cart before the horse,” said Davis, a Republican state lawmaker who represents East Windsor and Ellington.
Davis thinks Lamont’s proposal is a Band-Aid on a building that doesn’t have long-term viability.
Mike Freimuth, executive director of the Capital Region Development Authority -- the group that runs the XL Center -- believes this path is the only way forward to maximize the arena’s value to the downtown economy.
“It pushes hotel nights. It pushes restaurant activity. It pushes value in properties around the building that in turn, translate [into] tax revenues,” Freimuth said. “All that’s lost if you don’t keep the building operating.”
Past attempts to revamp the XL Center have failed, including former Gov. Dannel Malloy’s plan for a $250 million rebuild.
The CRDA has also tried to sell the building in order to get a private partner to renovate it. But that didn’t draw serious interest.
“I think it’s an issue of getting this done quickly -- that’s the biggest issue because if it languishes for four or five more years, you won’t [have] a building that can be used anymore,” said state Rep. Matt Ritter (D-Hartford). “We have to get this done very, very quickly, and I think we will.”
Ritter said the bond package that includes the XL Center allocation could be signed off on within 50 days.
Davis, the Republican state representative, wants the state to abandon the XL Center renovation. Instead, he’d like the state to consider constructing a smaller arena that would go together with Dunkin’ Donuts Park to establish an entertainment district in the north end of Hartford.