The University of Connecticut may get into the stadium management business at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.
UConn, which has a 20-year lease on the stadium for its football program,told the Capital Region Development Authority that it is exploring the possibility of submitting a formal plan to manage the stadium.
The letter came today on the deadline for submitting bids to the CRDA for managing Rentschler and the XL Center in downtown Hartford. It is not a formal bid, but reserving the right to further explore the issue, guaranteed to them under the terms of their lease.
A UConn spokeswoman said late Monday it was an opportune time because the university has a new athletic director, a relatively new president and control of Rentschler Field is being transferred from the state Office of Policy and Management to the CRDA. But the university is still gathering data, so it doesn’t yet know if managing the 40,000-seat sports and entertainment arena would be a benefit to UConn.
“The stadium is clearly important to UConn as the premier tenant, so we consider it prudent to have these discussions with our sister state agencies,” Spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz said, stressing it was “a discussion, not a negotiation.”
Under the terms of its lease, UConn has the responsibility to cover any deficits if they occur, but it doesn’t have control over recruitment of other users, concessions, maintenance and other matters.
Monday, Three entities submitted bids to manage both venues:
- AEG Management CT LLC. AEG now manages the XL Center
- Capital Region Sports and Entertainment Group, led by Bushnell Management Services. Bushnell Management now manages The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts and Rentschler Field.
- Philadelphia-based Global Spectrum.
Michael W. Freimuth, the authority’s executive director, declined to comment on the scope of the three bids with one exception: none includes a proposal for a new arena.
Even though public funds are involved in both facilities, CRDA has invoked a clause in the state’s right to know laws that allows it to keep the proposals under wraps while negotiating with each of the bidders.
A preliminary recommendation to CRDA’s board is expected in early January with a final decision expected in February.
CRDA had expressed a preference for a single entity to manage both venues, and the entrance of UConn could up the stakes for bidders to further develop plans to cut operating losses at the 9-year-old Rentschler facility.
UConn is the middle of a “reopener” on its lease contract that allows it to discuss issues involving the stadium’s revenues and expenses. The issue of how managing the facility directly would affect the operating budget came up in the discussions with CRDA.
Under the terms of the lease, UConn can reserve the right to enter into side discussions to manage the stadium even after the deadline for bids has passed.
Two other potential bidders who had expressed interest — Bridgeport-based Harbor Yard Sports & Entertainment and SMG Worldwide, headquartered in West Conshohocken, Penn. — did not submit bids for either venue.