Category Archives: Entertainment/Tourism

Ted’s Montana Grill Sets Opening Day At Hartford’s Front Street

by Categorized: Commerce, Entertainment/Tourism Date:

Maybe Front Street in downtown Hartford should change its name to Frontier Street on May 12. That’s the day Ted’s Montana Grill opens for business with its second location in Connecticut, the chain announced Tuesday.

Ted’s, founded in 2002 by CNN-founder Ted Turner and restaurateur George McKerrow, will occupy a 4,600-square-foot section of Front Street with a 160-seat restaurant, joining the Spotlight Theatres and Front Street Bistro and the Capitol Grille at the development.

Still under construction is Infinity Music Hall, which is set to open this summer, and Nix’s seafood restaurant.

It being Earth Day, Ted’s Montana Grill, with 44 locations now open in 16 states, didn’t miss the chance to tout its “many eco-friendly technologies and practices” at the restaurant with an old West saloon decor and a bison specialty, “from low-voltage, compact fluorescent light bulbs to menus printed on recycled paper.”

“Mark Twain would be very happy to see Ted’s Montana Grill opening up downtown. He’d definitely walk along the river and be a regular on one of our bar stools,” said John Halpin, who will head the staff of 54 at the Front Street location.

The other location for Ted’s in the state is at  The Promenade Shops at Evergreen Walk in South Windsor.


UConn Recruiting Loss Is Good for The Sport And For UConn

by Categorized: Entertainment/Tourism, marketing Date:

Don’t tell this to Geno Auriemma, but the decision by A’ja Wilson to play for her home state university in South Carolina instead of UConn should be good news for UConn fans.


A’ja Wilson, a McDonald’s All-American
Brian Spurlock / USA Today Sports / March 30, 2014


Sure, the imperial UConn women’s basketball dynasty would have grown if the 6-foot-4 guard-forward, ranked highest in the nation among high school seniors, had brought her talent to Storrs.

But let’s be honest here. The product — big-time women’s college basketball — stinks. We’ve got one dominant program, maybe a half-dozen Baylors, Notre Dames and Stamfords below that and then the bottom caves in.

That’s not good business and it’s not a formula for true success. Kudos to A’ja Wilson for showing hometown loyalty.

Competition makes sports.  Red Sox-Yankees. Federer-Nadal. Celtics-Lakers.  Deeper down, it’s about parity. The American Way. Everybody has a chance.

The NFL is the most successful league in the country, not least because football is a national sport with huge shared revenues. We’ve had seven different Super Bowl winners in the last eight years and ten different teams competing in the last five Super Bowls.

Think it’s all about winning? From 1996 to 2000, the five years when the Yankees won four World Series, they averaged 34,949 fans per home game. From 2004 to 2008, with zero World Series appearances: 51,190.

My colleague, the great sports writer Dom Amore, who covered the Yankees in the 2000′s, says that was due to a delayed effect, not parity. The Yankees made the playoffs in all of those years. Still, multiple rivalries helped the team’s gate.

And let’s look inside each game. How much actual UConn women’s basketball game action did you watch this year, from the tip-off Nov. 9 against UHartford to the last, victorious dribble in Nashville? Admit it — you switched to ESPN2 in the dull middle of the second half against Notre Dame to watch highlights of the amazing 2011 Masters tournament.

A breakdown of the historic 40-0 season, not including two silly exhibition games that the Huskies won by 65 points, tells the one-sided story:

  • Wins by 50-plus: 8
  • Wins by 40-49: 7
  • Wins by 30-39: 9
  • Wins by 20-29: 8
  • Wins by 10-19: 8
  • Wins by less than 10: 0

So as a UConn fan, say it loud: Thank you, A’ja.

Moe’s UConn Burrito Giveaway Totaled $435,000

by Categorized: Entertainment/Tourism, marketing, Small Business Date:

If there’s anything we like more than basketball championships it’s food discounts, and Moe’s Southwest Grill won the prize last week with $1 burritos after the dual UConn titles, capping a season-long discount worth $435,000 for Connecticut fans.

On April 9 alone, the one-dollar day, the 16 Moe’s franchises that participated ladled up discounts of about $140,000 to 20,000 customers, the co-owners of a group of Moe’s stores said Thursday.

The Moe’s stores rolled out the $1 offer — for burritos that averaged $8 at the regular retail price — after the men’s and women’s teams both won national championships.

For Dave Vorchheimer and Matt Rusconi, co-owners of a group of seven locations, the busiest were in West Hartford and Storrs, where about 200 people an hour lined up from opening to closing time on April 9.

“Up at UConn, Shabazz and the guys came in,” said Rusconi, who led the charge at that store. Yes, Shabazz Napier and the other “Hungry Huskies,” about four teammates, paid a buck for their burritos.

The partners have been sponsors of UConn basketball for five years, since the time when they owned just one Moe’s location, at West Hartford’s Blue Back Square. “We can’t explain how proud we are,” Rusconi said. “There was a huge party and we were proud to be a part of it.”

After every UConn home win, the Moe’s stores offered a free side of queso, worth $1. And the price of a burrito dropped to $5 for one day after the teams made it to the Sweet 16’s; then $4 for a day after they won their way into the Elite 8’s; then $3 for a day after they reached the Final Fours. Seventeen locations participated during the tournament, but one, at a highway rest area, did not offer the $1 burrito last week.

One customer came in after the $1 day, Vorchheimer said Thursday, and said, “I’m glad you guys are still here, with the discounts I was afraid you wouldn’t be here anymore.’”

But of course, the stores’ actual cost wasn’t as large as the discounts.  And even though they never guessed they’d have to offer burritos for a buck, the owners figure 500,000 people paid attention to the promotion — and they’d absolutely do it again.

“It costs you a lot of money to make that many people open their eyes up,” Vorchheimer said. As for the wins, “a state without any professional teams, this is probably as exciting as it gets.”

“The staff was going crazy, working their tails off,” Rusconi said. “We were running around the state, transferring food…These guys dug in, man. They all did.”

NOTE: An earlier version of this post had an estimate of $120,000 for the value of the April 9 promotion, and said the $3 offer followed the men’s championship.

UConn Parade Raises, Spends $90K; How Much Economic Benefit?

by Categorized: Economic Development, Economy, Entertainment/Tourism Date:

The final tally is in for Sunday’s UConn victory parade in downtown Hartford: Exactly $90,000 raised from 23 corporate sponsors.

And that’s exactly how much the Hartford Downtown Improvement District, the organizing group, will spend, said Mike Zaleski, executive director. As of midday Monday the bills totaled $86,500.

The most important economic effect of the UConn celebration: Cheerleading for Hartford. Dan Haar/The Hartford Courant

The most important economic effect of the UConn celebration: Cheerleading for Hartford.
Dan Haar/The Hartford Courant

The figure is up from $50,000 that Zaleski has set last Wednesday as a minimum needed to mount the celebration, and it’s up from the $70,000 that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced as the total early Friday morning.

The added dough enabled the organizers to rent a 20-foot video screen for the rally at the north steps of the state Capitol — for $13,475, delivered from a firm in Philadelphia.

Seems like a lot in an age when large-screen TV’s are dropping in price.  But I was at the event with friends, and one said, “This has a big-time feel.”

And that’s the economic point. Forget the money the 200,000 visitors to the Capital City did or did not spend. That’s small stuff. What makes an economy move is an improvement in how people feel about a region.

This event, one of the few mass-happenings that was truly racially integrated, accomplished that, though it can’t be measured. And it was problem-free except for one guy who fell out of a tree in front of the Hartford Public Library.

Aside from the obvious double championship, part of what made up the “feel” of the parade was a larger event, with 51 marching and rolling units, up from 33 last year, and a shorter route than in the past.

Metro Hartford is an $80 billion-a-year ecosystem of commerce. We don’t have a lot of growth but we do have a lot of wealth.  As we’ve learned, it’s not easy to convert that wealth into energy and positive feelings by the wide population.

In other words: Just as money doesn’t buy happiness, it doesn’t buy the sorts of good feelings that can lead to decisions by people and companies to spend in a region. That takes things like quickly organized parades that have a “big-time feel.”

Here’s the list of corporate sponsors who donated cash. It doesn’t include “in-kind” sponsors such as the Peter Pan bus company.

  • Webster Bank
  • Mohegan Sun
  • Cigna
  • The Travelers Companies, Inc.
  • The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company
  • Northeast Utilities
  • United Technologies Corporation
  • AT&T
  • Virtus Investment Partners
  • The Connecticut Buick and GMC Dealers
  • Harvard Pilgrim Health Care
  • Coca-Cola
  • Bank of America
  • The Hartford Financial Services Group
  • Aetna
  • SNY
  • Capital Region Development Authority
  • XL Center
  • CBS Radio
  • Rogo Distributors
  • Peel Liqueur
  • Robinson & Cole
  • Foxwoods Resort Casino

UConn Victory Parade: 4 p.m. Sunday In Downtown Hartford

by Categorized: Entertainment/Tourism Date:



Connecticut will celebrate the dual UConn basketball victories with a parade Sunday at 4 p.m., with players and coaches riding through downtown Hartford in open, double-decker buses.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy Tweeted the time Wednesday morning after agreeing that the parade should and must be this weekend, not later. The marching follows the traditional route used in years past, starting at the state Capitol and ending there, with a rally at the north entrance facing Bushnell Park.

The Hartford Business Improvement District, coordinating the event, is working to raise $50,000, executive director Michael Zaleski said. By the end of the business day Wednesday, the group had lined up about 30 percent of the needed commitments.

“Failure is not an option,” Zaleski said, adding that he’s approaching old parade sponsors as well as some new ones from around the state. “We’ve gotten several companies that have stepped up to support the parade…We’ve always been able to reach our goal.”

The parade will coordinate with a show at The Bushnell — “Hell Hath No Fury Like a Woman Scorned” — which starts at 3 p.m. and will still be happening after the parade passes the theater on Capitol Avenue.

By holding the parade this weekend, the state, city of Hartford, UConn and Business Improvement District are following last year’s precedent — as Malloy said Wednesday, “strike while the iron is hot.”  Most cities have done just that, when a professional franchise has won a title.

Let’s Have A Parade — This Weekend, Not Later

by Categorized: Economic Development, Entertainment/Tourism Date:

We have a championship. We might have two. Now let’s have a parade, and let’s make it this weekend.

Not next week. Not Easter weekend. Not later in the month. This weekend, like a real city that makes things happen.

Sunday is the day the city would like to have marchers.  Maribel La Luz, spokeswoman for Mayor Pedro Segarra, Tweeted “Sunday” in the hours after the men’s team won Monday night. But the planning is still in the works.

Michael Zaleski, executive director of the Hartford Business Improvement District, which coordinates these events, would like to see it happen this weekend.

“We set the precedent last year that we can do a parade in less than a week,” he said.

Before that, going back to the ’90s, it was almost always the second week after the UConn men or women — or both, in 2004 — hoisted the hardware.

Zaleski is always eager to step off quickly but his group doesn’t call all the shots. UConn, the governor’s office and the city all weigh in, not to mention the little matters of raising money from sponsors, and working groups along the route that might have events scheduled.

This weekend, for example, it’s Palm Sunday, making that morning less than ideal and The Bushnell has a production Saturday and Sunday at 3 p.m. — “Hell Hath No Fury Like a Woman Scorned.”

And speaking of scorned women, ask Geno Auriemma before tonight’s game in Nashville whether he and his team can appear in a parade this weekend and see what happens. Bad idea.

The various offices in the planning will probably have a date set by Wednesday. “Rest assured,” said Andrew Doba, spokesman for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, “the planning has begun. Let’s go Huskies!”

It should be obvious that a parade needs to happen in the first few days, and that’s how the pros do it. Look at the last six national championships, in order going back:

  • Seattle Seahawks, Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 2, parade Wednesday, Feb. 5
  • Boston Red Sox, World Series Wednesday, Oct. 30, parade Saturday, Nov. 2

tribune blackhawks

  • Chicago Blackhawks, Stanley Cup Monday, June 24, parade Friday, June 28
  • Miami Heat, NBA Finals Thursday, June 20, parade Monday, June 24
  • UConn Huskies women’s basketball, Final Four Tuesday, April 9, parade Sunday April 14
  • Louisville men’s basketball Final Four Monday, April 8, NO PARADE — but the team marched in the annual Kentucky Derby Festival Pegasus Parade on May 2.

A parade is mostly just a celebration but there’s an economic side to it. In the long run, companies locate where people want to be, and people want to be where there’s excitement, and places with excitement hold parades quickly.

Do we want to be Louisville?  We already beat Kentucky. Enough said.

Best UConn-Kentucky Bet Is Quassy vs. Beech Bend

by Categorized: Entertainment/Tourism Date:

Everyone from elected officials to national brand executives is riding the UConn basketball train but for my money, the best bet belongs to Quassy Amusement and Waterpark.

Quassy's Wooden Warrior Courtesy of Quassy Amusement & Waterpark

Quassy’s Wooden Warrior
Courtesy of Quassy Amusement & Waterpark

The Middlebury park is wagering against Beech Bend Park, its counterpart in Bowling Green, Ky., with the loser having to fly the flag of the winning university in Monday’s men’s championship game. And not just any old day — the winning flag will fly in the opponent’s home state amusement park on opening weekend, which starts April 26 for Quassy.

And the flag won’t fly just anyplace — it will wave from the heights of the marquee ride, the wooden roller coaster at whichever park loses. That’s the Wooden Warrior at Quassy or the Kentucky Rumbler at Beech Bend, both ranked among the Top 50 wooden coaster in the world.

That seems like a bigger deal for the residents of the two states than the alcohol-laden wager by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and his counterpart, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear.

The two states’ U.S. Senators joined the betting with some food in the balance: Kentucky Derby-Pie® from Kern’s Kitchen in Louisville, or Stew Leonard’s brownies and UCONN Dairy Bar ice cream.

Flashing blue and white lights at the Aetna Cupola in Hartford courtesy of Aetna

Flashing blue and white lights at the Aetna Cupola in Hartford
courtesy of Aetna

And as for corporate brands, we haven’t seen a bet between, say Colts Manufacturing Co. and Jim Beam, but Aetna planned to light its headquarters cupola in white and Husky blue, and Milford-based Subway is down in Texas as a sponsor, handing out its new Flateeza product.

The Connecticut convention Center is also down in Dallas, pitching Hartford to an association of associations that happened to be in town at the same time as the Final Four.

All that food, alcohol and commerce can come and go — we just hope Quassy doesn’t have to fly the Kentucky Wildcats flag at the end of the month.



Back9Network Chief To Testify At Senate Hearing On Giant Cable Merger

by Categorized: Entertainment/Tourism, Media Date:

James Bosworth, CEO and co-founder of Back9Network, is one of six executives and experts slated to tell the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee what they think about the proposed Comcast acquisition of Time Warner Cable on Wednesday.

CEO James Bosworth Jr. Nick Caito photo courtesy of Back9Network

CEO James Bosworth Jr.
Nick Caito photo courtesy of Back9Network

The fledgling golf lifestyle network is hoping for a cable TV deal, so the $45 billion merger could matter hugely to its fate as a growing downtown Hartford employer with studio space.

It’s not clear whether Bosworth is for or against the merger but the answer is probably not straightforward. I spoke with him on Feb. 13, the day the merger was announced, and he was nervous because talks with Time Warner had gone well up to that point, while Comcast — which owns the Golf Network — had said outright it would not launch Back9Network on its systems.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean the cable merger would hurt Back9Network. Comcast “could be encouraged to carry alternatives to programming that they already own,” Bosworth said last month.

And that could include Back9Network, which is moving ahead with a buildout of its $7.5 million studio on Constitution Plaza.

The Senate committee will hear from top executives of Comcast and Time Warner, as well as opponents of the merger including Gene Kimmelman of Public Knowledge, Reuters reported Monday.

Aetna Pitching At Fenway Park In New Massachusetts Push

by Categorized: Entertainment/Tourism, Health Care, Insurance Date:


It’s Opening Day at Fenway Park in Boston and Aetna is one of the new players on the field. The Hartford-based health insurer, looking to push deeper into the Massachusetts market for large and midsize company plans, figured there’s no better place than the home of the World Series champions.

Aetna at Fenway Jody Osko Lewis photo courtesy of Aetna

Aetna at Fenway
Jody Osko Lewis photo courtesy of Aetna

Aetna’s ad deal with the Red Sox includes a 16-foot center field sign for the whole season; the Aetna logo behind home plate for 15 games; and the right to call itself a “proud sponsor of the Red Sox.”

Fenway will also schedule an Aetna Day at Fenway Park on a date to be announced (no word on whether they’re giving out Aetna yoga mats signed by Chief Meditation Officer Mark Bertolini).

Payment terms were not disclosed and Aetna might add more promotions as the season progresses.

Aetna may have spurned most of the states’ Obamacare exchanges, but the Bay State represents a major opportunity. No other national firm operates in the corporate health plan market there on its own, without a local partnership.

“We want to significantly grow our membership base in Massachusetts and to do that we are investing in a greater presence in that market, securing office space, hiring new managers for sales and network, and additional staff there,” spokeswoman Susan Millerick said.

Aetna is one of at least two large Connecticut-based organizations announcing a big presence in Fenway this year. The other is Foxwoods Resort Casino, a longtime Fenway presence, which just took the main ad position on the Green Monster.


Final Four Hotel Customers: It’s Kentucky Vs. Florida For The Trophy

by Categorized: Entertainment/Tourism Date:

Basketball analysts are divided over who will win Saturday’s semi-finals in Dallas, so we turn to hotel bookings. On that score, reports, it’s the two Southeastern Conference universities, Florida and Kentucky, holding the lead.

In order, it’s Florida, Kentucky, Wisconsin and Connecticut fans booking rooms. Husky fans might cry foul since we have the farthest to travel and the highest airfares. Here’s a breakdown of prices as of Wednesday:

Airfare to and from Dallas-Ft. Worth:

National average: $340
Lexington, Ky.: $385
Wisconsin: $584
Jacksonville, Fla.: $541
Bradley: $604

Hotels (about 40 percent higher than this time last year, with no Final Four):

1 star: $73
2 stars: $84
2.5 stars: $98
3 stars: $136
3.5 stars: $196
4 stars: $235
5 stars: $303

Tickets (for sale on, Wednesday afternoon):

Semifinals (two-game package): 709 available, $344 to $9,455
Championship game: 1,595 available, $146 to $4,360
Three-game package: 1,186 available, $510 to $9,038