The Hartford presence of Global Spectrum is taking shape as the company that’s managing the XL Center, Rentschler Field and the business operations of the Hartford Wolf Pack prepares for its first big event Thursday and moves its national development office from Glastonbury to Trumbull Street downtown.
Global Spectrum, a Philadelphia firm affiliated with Comcast, was picked earlier this year by the Capital Region Development Authority over AEG, which was running the XL Center, and the Bushnell, which managed the Rent in East Hartford. GS has a core staff of about 50, mostly from the two previous firms.
“We kept a large majority,” said Chris Lawrence, general manager of XL, the Rent and the non-hockey operations of the Wolf Pack, the American Hockey League affiliate of the New York Rangers. “There were some new people, some people left.”
And of course, there’s a new name for the XL Center’s main tenant, as the 2 1/2-year-old Connecticut Whale trademark was put back on ice, or rather, off ice in a controversial decision that Global Spectrum supported but did not make. With Howard Baldwin no longer in the picture, the idea is, or should be, to build on the hockey tradition that Baldwin helped greatly, without aspiring to bring back an NHL team — a goal that diverts attention from what Hartford needs to accomplish now.
The football season starts Thursday at Rentschler as UConn kicks off against Towson. At that and other big events, GS can have as many as 200 people on hand including concessions, ticketing, security, set-up and management.
On Wednesday, Global Spectrum unveiled its new LED video display scoreboard system at Rentschler, which will bring live video and instant replay. The system, which cost state taxpayers $1.67 million, features a 73-by-28-foot main board and 2-foot-high “ribbon displays” for each side of the stadium.
“We are committed to providing the ultimate fan experience here at the stadium,” Lawrence said in a written release. “We expect the fan interaction and general in-game atmosphere to improve significantly.”
Separately, Frank Russo, the Global Spectrum senior vice president in charge of business development for the company, is moving his office to 150 Trumbull Street this weekend. There, he and Chris Silver, and more staff to be added, will run Global’s global efforts to add to its roster of more than 115 venues under management.
Russo, a Glastonbury resident, ran the old Hartford Civic Center from 1974 to 1983 and had several other local roles including acting president of the Greater Hartford Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“This is definitely a ‘homecoming,'” said Russo, who holds a masters degree in public administration from UConn, in a written release. “It feels so good to move back to where my roots in this industry first took hold.”
The whole point of CRDA bringing in a unified, well connected group was to spark more events and more attendance, and Lawrence is optimistic. Highlight of the fall concert season is a three-night stretch on Oct. 25-27 featuring Pearl Jam, Drake and Phish, with hockey games on the Wednesday nights before and after that run.
“It’s exciting, three high-profile events three nights in a row,” Lawrence said.
As part of the changeover, GS is moving the Connecticut venues to its own ticketing system, New Era, and phasing out Ticketmaster.
There was a tiny bit of confusion this summer as ticket-buyers were directed to go to Ticketmaster outlets such as the one at Westfarms mall, which did not sell XL Center events. Global Spectrum has no plans to open local New Era ticket locations, said Lawrence, whose assignment before Hartford was the Glens Falls Civic Center in upstate New York — but he said that should not be an issue.
“The amount of tickets that are purchased an an outlet these days is reducing almost daily,” he said, “so it’s not really a concern of ours.”
GS will set up kiosks in the atrium of the XL Center, marketing director Erin Bilton said.
Lawrence declined to give numbers for season ticket sales of the Wolf Pack but said that effort, like the overall startup of the firm at the two venues, is off to a good start.
“We feel very positive about the way things are going right now.”