The Connecticut Money Pit: Hartford XL Center
Originally built in in the early 1970’s and officially opened January 10th, 1975, with a maximum capacity of roughly 11,000 patrons and 25,000 sq. ft. of space overall the Hartford XL center, formally known as the Hartford Civic Center has been a bottomless pit for the Connecticut tax payer. Plagued with problems such as its questionable structural integrity leading to its roof collapsing in 1978 and not reopening until 1980. Even today with a seating capacity of 16,500 it pales in comparison to its competitors in the region such as Madison Square garden in New York (19,812) and TD Garden in Massachusetts (17,500). This coupled with its historically weak fan base for any team playing at the facility is a no brainer as to why the state of Connecticut cannot attract a professional sports team to this state and ultimately increase revenue.
In recent years this has become more of an issue, after already dumping 35 million into renovating the facility in 2015, Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA) proposed investing a full 250 million into a “top-to-bottom makeover of the 40-year-old arena”, with the support of Governor Malloy. The project would increase the seating capacity up to nearly 20,000 and update the facilities technologies such as the ice making system and displays. These would be justified changes…if the arena was selling out on a regular basis, because of its lack of fan base and small events it generates between a mere 2-3 million meaning it would take nearly 125 years to break even. “I’m not sure a city the size of Hartford needs to have a…20,000 seat arena when we don’t have a professional team that can fill that arena 30, 40, 50, 60 guaranteed nights a year and generate the revenue that’s needed to pay for that size arena” said Rep. Christopher Davis (R-Ellington). Having sat in on the 2017 budget hearing at the state capitol I can tell you not all policy makers are on board with this, one representative even raised the question as to how much it would cost to tear down as opposed to renovate. With a state that already has roughly 50 billion dollars in debt this is a questionable investment of taxpayer money with no guarantee of a return.