Deal On XL Center Will Stretch Into Next Week

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With the future of the American Hockey League in Hartford uncertain, the Capital Region Development Authority says it is keenly aware it must act swiftly to select a management company for Hartford’s XL Center.

The XL Center’s contract with the Connecticut Whale, the AHL franchise of the New York Rangers, expires this year and negotiations on a future contract can’t begin until the new manager is in place.

Connecticut Whale mascot, Pucky, in a photo from the 2010 ceremony that renamed Hartford's AHL franchise the Connecticut Whale. Courant File Photo

Connecticut Whale mascot, Pucky, in a photo from the 2010 ceremony that renamed Hartford’s AHL franchise the Whale. Courant File Photo

“We know that we are at a critical time to get the deal done,” Michael W. Freimuth, executive director of the Capital Region Development Authority, told me today. “We hope to make a decision within a week.”

Initially, the CRDA staff had aimed to bring a recommendation to its board this week. But a meeting with board members Wednesday night left too many questions unanswered, and negotiations continue with the bidders.

The key issues in the negotiations remain: the future of the AHL in Hartford, capital improvements to the XL Center, and boosting event attendance.

Read my story about the challenges of an aging XL Center here.

The bidders are AEG Management CT LLC, Capital Region Sports and Entertainment Group, and Global Spectrum.

Freimuth said the bidders are in contact not only with The Madison Square Garden Co., which owns the Rangers and The Whale, but other potential AHL teams that might want to sign a contract with the venue.

Read more about MSG’s thoughts on Hartford in this story by my colleague Paul Doyle.

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8 thoughts on “Deal On XL Center Will Stretch Into Next Week

  1. Linda

    AEG itself is up for sale and likely to be dismantled by private equity firm according to business reporting in LA where the company is HQ’d.
    Capital Region Sports experience is limited to the Bushnell and management of the underperfoming Rentschler over the last several years. They have no other venues or experience.
    Global Spectrum is owned by Comcast (Fylers Ed Snider is largest shareholder), which owns NBC SPORTS (hello NHL and Stamford) and has 80% of Conn market. They manage scores of arenas across the country including the Wells Fargo center in Philly among others.
    If we want to go small, go Capital and try to “hold on” to AHL team and the 5-8k in attendance. If we want to go “big” go Global Spectrum and go for the NHL (we’ll still have UCONN Hockey East to hold us until we get NHL). BTW: is any of the Governor’s $1.5 billion available to help renovate the XLC for UCONN hoops and hockey and to help lure NHL team from 1/2 empty arenas in Florida, Nashville, Columbus, and Phoenix (say $30 million)?

  2. David

    NHL attendance this year in Florida is 17.500 per game(103%), Nashville 17,100 (100%), Colorado 16,166 (89.8%), and PHX is 12,406 (72.4%) Where did the 1/2 full stat come from?

    1. Linda

      First, let’s discount this year as it is only about 10-14 days old and we’re coming off work stoppage.
      Next, when looking at the last couple years you have to understand that what is reported as a sold ticket (e.g. attendance) does not equate to a fan in the seat at the game (“stub count”). The NHL (no league) reports the “stub count.” Some very easy google searches will reveal cavernous arenas for most games in the cities I mentioned. INdeed, in FLorida they took to actually covering up seats in the top tier to make it look “less empty.” Lastly, I submit the Hartford-NH market (30th in size; top 5 in wealth) is much better for a variety of reasons beyone “official” attendance, but that is separate topic.

  3. TheHartfordBoostah

    I think we should go with Global Spectrum and keep the AHL, while upgrading the UConn program as well. The NHL us the ultimate goal, if we had an arena going up we could have had the Coyotes here. THINK BIG HARTFORD

  4. Paul

    I don’t understand why our leaders (Governor, Friemuth, CRDA, even the Courant) are so afraid to openly try to get an NHL team. While we need a much improved XLC, we do not need a new arena – in the short run (eg 10-12 year). The Governor and Mayor should form an official committee who will constantly, consistently, and persuasivley keep selling Hartford as the best destination for NHL franchise in need of a home. Off the top of my head, why Connecticut is the best available market for NHL franchise: 1) Whalers annually remain at #8 in NHL memorabilia sales; 2)Hartford/New Haven (not including FField County) is 30th in size and top 5 in per capita income; 3) biggest market without a pro-sports team; 4) No other pro-sports team to compete with; 5) There are 37 youth hockey organizations with 10-12k kids playing hockey in Connecticut (not including western Mass); 6) There are 57 boys high school teams and 21 girls teams in Connecticut (not including western Mass or prep schools); 7) While imperfect, an improved XLC is in great location and has numerous businesses, restaurants, and bars in walking distance to offset the lack of wide concourses; 8) Boston is under 2 hours and NYC is 2.5 hours; 9) natural regional rivals within a car drive; 10) ESPN and NBCSports (NHL contract at the moment) are HQ’d in Connecticut. In sum, New England is hockey.
    What are our leaders afraid of. Bring it on!!

  5. Paul

    PS: Let’s go with Global Spectrum as they seem not only like the most prudent business decision, but also the better chance of luring NHL for the reasons stated by Linda (i.e. connections to NBC, and Sir Eddie Snider).

  6. TheHartfordBoostah

    It is so refreshing to see comments like Paul’s. So used to seeing tons of “who cares, screw Hartford” comments. Attaboy Paul! Bring Back The NHL”

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