If They Build it, Will Whalers Come? New Plans in Hartford Could Provide Facility for NHL Return

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A Rendering of the “Renovated” XL Center. New Arena could finally give Connecticut a state of the art facility.

After breaking ground on a minor league baseball stadium earlier this week, the city of Hartford was investigating the long-term feasibility of it’s current arena. Despite the $ 35 Million renovations this past summer, the study was adamant stating this was only a temporary fix and would at most keep the arena serviceable for another five years. The Hartford Courant has revealed that the Capital Region Development Authority has proposed two long-term fans to not only prolong UConn’s use of the facility, but to possibly open the door for an NHL franchise down the road.

The CRDA has proposed two different options with both involving the current XL Center site. While there were plans to possibly move the arena, the best location was determined to be the location of the new ballpark which is now out of the question. The authority stresses the need for an overhaul of the current facilities stating the following:
CRDA: It is generally recognized that the XL Center’s functionality and ability to generate revenue are severely limited by its age, obsolete design, mechanical systems, limited size of the current building footprint, narrow concourses, limited fan amenities, shortage of restrooms and ADA deficiencies.

Option 1: New Arena
The first option would be to build a new arena on the existing site of the current XL Center. This option proposes that the current arena be completely torn down and built from scratch. This arena would have state of the art amenities and would allow for more efficient loading and off-loading of supplies at the arena. It is estimated to tear down and rebuild the arena would take 36 months. While this arena would be brand new and offer superior sight lines including over a thousand additional seats in the lower bowl, this would mean that the site could not host an event for three years and is the more costly option of the two.

Option 2: Renovate Current Arena 

The XL Center in it's current state

The XL Center in its current state

This would be the less costly of the options costing $250 Million. The benefits to this plan are that the arena could still be opened during the renovations as the upgrades would be done in phases, like how Madison Square Garden was renovated. This option (as seen rendered above), would still give the state a stop of the line facility and is assured by the committee to have the same draw as a brand new arena for an NHL team. However the drawbacks to this option are an extra $ 15 Million dollars to make this arena option “NHL ready” and not offer the superior same sight lines of a new arena.

Both plans are similar in that they both would get seating capacity of the arena down to 16,000 for hockey and 17,000 for basketball. The role of UConn will also be of the utmost importance because for the success of the arena it is recommended that UConn needs to become a partner at the facility rather than a part-time tenant.

While there is no question that the XL Center needs an overhaul, or to be replaced the big question that hockey fans want to know is will these actions bring the NHL back to Hartford?While there is no easy way to answer that question the best thing to say about these plans for the arena and the NHL is this. It’s a start.

A new arena will be much more attractive for an NHL franchise, but the CRDA has said that the renovation option will offer a state of the art venue for a team. Even with the agency’s study proving that the market could support an NHL based on numerous factors, the agency also pointed out that a new or renovated arena won’t guarantee a Whalers return.

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A new Arena won’t guarantee the return of the beloved Whalers, but it’s a step in the right direction.

As a hockey fan nothing would make me happier to see my team, the Hartford Whalers return. This arena isn’t just about getting the NHL back, but ensuring  long-term economic growth in the state.

A new XL Center would allow Connecticut to host more important sporting events, concerts, and shows while giving the University of Connecticut the home they deserve. This is what the state needs to do. Invest the long-term success of the UConn athletic programs and provide the region a state of the art facility. Hartford could host such events as NCAA Regionals while being considered a sight for prestigious events such as the Frozen Four. While this process remains in its infancy the fact that the state realizes the abysmal state of the XL Center is a step in the right direction. It knows the arena is a concrete catastrophe at the moment and needs to be addressed before it’s too late.

If Hartford follows up and goes through with either of these plans then the state of Connecticut’s athletics and entertainment will be heading in the right direction. Then… maybe then, the NHL may give Hartford the call they have waited for since 1997. Hockey fans can only dream that one day in Hartford the sounds of the brass bonanza will echo through downtown as fans scream in jovial delight, “The Whalers have returned”!

To see the full plans for both options at the XL Center click here

A Step in the Right Direction? Or the Final Nail in the Coffin? How new Stadium impacts the Hartford Whalers

How does the new 60 Million $ Stadium in Hartford impact the Whalers?

How does the new 60 Million $ Stadium in Hartford impact the Whalers?

On June 4th it was revealed that the city of Hartford was undertaking a huge project in an effort to revitalize the downtown area. The City announced plans to build a 60$ million dollar stadium downtown that will be completed in 2016. The stadium, which will seat 9,000 spectators, will be the future home of the New Britain Rock Cats whose lease in New Britain expires in 2015. While the negotiations between Hartford and the ball club have caused a stir, mainly because New Britain feels betrayed because the team did not alert them of the possibility of a move, the big question that comes from this is who does this impact the NHL’s return to Hartford.

Since 1997 the question that has lingered is will the NHL return to Hartford? With this new stadium there are two school of thoughts. Either this new stadium will help push the city to build a new arena, or the new ballpark will prevent the city from exploring a new hockey arena.

Is Hartford making an effort to make itself more attractive for the NHL?

Is Hartford making an effort to make itself more attractive for the NHL?

For some people, they think this ballpark helps the Whalers. If the ballpark helps to revitalize downtown Hartford. If it attracts large crowds and is a financial success, it maybe the spring-board for building a new arena in the Hartford area. On the surface the stadium seems like a good idea, especially for the NHL in the city, but it is a huge mistake.

Who are the New Britain Rock Cats? They are a Double A baseball team. It amazes me that the city of Hartford has made such an effort to acquire a minor league franchise rather than try to lure a professional franchise. Look, I understand that this sounds like a good idea, but it could come back to haunt the city. The Rock Cats currently play 15 minutes aways, was it really worth it the spend 60$ million to move them closer? Instead of building a minor league baseball stadium, especially with baseball’s popularity declining, Hartford should have invested in a new arena. They won’t build a 200$ million dollars arena that could host an NHL franchise, UConn basketball, concerts, and other events ? Let’s face it. UConn basketball is the most popular sports franchise in the state. Why not build an arena for them? This just seems like a short-sighted and almost a conciliation prize type of move by the city. We won’t invest in a new arena but here’s minor league baseball enjoy.

It still is a long road for the NHL to return to Hartford in the future. The hope for Whalers’ fans is that this downtown ballpark will be a step in the right direction. A building block for revitalizing downtown and pushing the city to build a new arena. However, this could be a bad investment that will deter the city from investing in a new arena that an NHL franchise would need. Either way, the city’s decision to build this new ballpark will greatly impact the future of the Whalers in Hartford. Here’s hoping this ballpark will be the first step in bring an NHL franchise back to Connecticut.

Connecticut #1 in all of college sports?

The Champs are here!

The Champs are here!

In a span of 24 hours the melting pot of college basketball wasn’t Dallas or Nashville, but Storrs Connecticut. For the second time in history the UConn men’s and women’s basketball teams are the National Champions at the same time. The school is now an incredible 13-0 in National Title games with four men’s championships and a record best nine National Championships for the women. 2014 will be remembered for the historic run of the men’s team after going through the ringer the previous season and the sheer dominance the women’s program which once again ran the table with 40 wins. After this week the main question shouldn’t be about UConn’s dominance, but the state’s dominance as a whole. Is Connecticut becoming one of if not the best state in the nation for college sports?

Hockey is on the rise in the Nutmeg state

Hockey is on the rise in the Nutmeg state

I can already hear the yelling and screaming already. What are you nuts? Connecticut the best state for college sports? Blasphemous! But is it? In the span of twelve months the state has won 4 National Championships. Last year, Yale won the hockey National Championship to go with the three championships the Huskies added, two in basketball one in field hockey. We all know about basketball. The UConn men remain one of the best programs in the country, and the women are in a league of their own. However, the nutmeg state has become a hotbed for college hockey. Last year both Yale and Quinnipiac made it to the finals in hockey and both have been perennial powers for years with consistent top 15 rankings in the country. With UConn hockey moving into Hockey East and steadily improving, the question is becoming when not if another team from the Constitution state will win the National Championship.

Yeah, but what about football? True Connecticut is not a football state, this isn’t Alabama with the Crimson Tide and Auburn. I think that is pretty obvious, but across the board the other sports in this state prove that Connecticut is the cream of the crop in college sports. Field Hockey? UConn won the National Championship in 2013. Baseball? UConn reached the regionals for the first time in 2013. Along with these national appearances the Connecticut schools have won numerous conference championships across the board.

Connecticut could soon be the place to be.

Connecticut could soon be the place to be.

With already established powerhouses, and strong up and comers, the Nutmeg state could soon be more than just the center of college basketball, but the NCAA universe as well. With some of the greatest underrated fan bases in the country, it’s not hard to see why Connecticut loves it’s college teams. With dominance in basketball and hockey, if Connecticut can establish another team or teams that become perennial powers, it will be hard to argue that Connecticut is not a great home for college sports, but “the home” for college sports.