Should the XFL look at Hartford ?

The XFL will return in 2020 and here are a few reasons why the league may look to put a franchise in Hartford, CT.

After 19 years the XFL will be returning in 2020. World Wrestling Entertainment founder Vince McMahon announced earlier this week that the football league that only last one season in 2001, would be returning without the gimmicks that the league was originally known for. Some of the initiatives the league will be to speed up the pace of play and also barring any player with a criminal record.

The full announcement was made on ESPN and can be viewed below.

The debate about whether this league will work is a good topic for another day. Instead let’s focus on an intriguing question that hasn’t been asked. Where will the eight teams play?

The original XFL had an Eastern and Western division with four teams in each division. The East featured teams in Birmingham, New York/New Jersey, Orlando, and Chicago with the West having Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Memphis, and San Francisco. With the XFL looking for potential sites there could be a new market that could be a dark horse for a franchise. That city would be Hartford.

Hartford, Connecticut? Surely you must be joking? However, the more you think about it the more it makes sense. First, McMahon has announced that he will be the owner for all eight teams. Think about that. Not only will he be the league commissioner but he will also have to keep track of every team’s day-to-day operation.

WWE Headquarters Courtesy: Stamford Advocate

I can definitely  see a franchise in the New York and New Jersey area, given it’s the largest television market in the country, but Hartford would make it easier to handle a franchise that is right in the WWE’s backyard. The company’s headquarters, and likely the XFL’s headquarters initially will be based out of Stamford, Connecticut. Having a franchise in Hartford along with one in New York would put two of the eight franchises in near to the company’s headquarters thus making day-to-day operations easier.

Hartford hasn’t had a professional sports franchise since the Hartford Whalers left in 1997.

Now many of you will be saying that the market can’t support that. People forget that the New Haven and Hartford television market are one of the top thirty television markets in the country. In an area without a professional since 1997 when the Hartford Whalers moved out, this could be a market that would get behind a professional team.

Another encouraging statistic from Hartford Business was that the newly formed minor league ball club, the Hartford Yard Goats, set a minor league attendance record in their inaugural season drawing in over 395,000 fans.

Let’s also not forget that the original XFL played in smaller markets. Nielsen ratings in 2017 had the Hartford and New Haven as the 30th television market in the country. Of the original eight teams three of the teams were in smaller markets: Las Vegas (40), Birmingham, (45), and Memphis (51).

The next question I know you’re dying to ask but where will they play? It turns out that East Hartford has the perfect facility Pratt & Whitney Stadium, the home of the University of Connecticut football team. It’s a 40,000 seat stadium that was built-in 2001 specifically for football and hosted the UFL’s Hartford Colonials from 2009-2010.

Courtesy:RantSports

For an expansion league, the XFL would be wise to avoid large NFL Stadiums for attendance reason. The first time the XFL averaged just over 20,000 fans a game. If they were able to get 30,000 fans for these games it would look better to have a smaller football or soccer stadium that they have the chance to fill as opposed to a massive 70,000 seat stadium.

While professional football in Connecticut can be viewed as a long shot, the more you think about it, the more it makes sense. The state has the television market, provides a location close to the WWE Headquarters, is a market without a professional team, and has a football stadium that’s a perfect fit for the league’s specifications.

Even if Hartford isn’t one of the eight cities selected for a franchise initially, their qualifications and infrastructure would make the city a leading candidate if the league can grow and eventually expand.

It’s still a long way until the XFL kicks off in 2020, but if the league is looking for a new market when they start this league, one option could be McMahon putting a franchise in the same state where his wrestling conglomerate calls home.

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.

 

U Conn Do it! Why UCONN needs to build a new hockey arena

If UCONN hockey wants to make it to the big time, they need a new arena

If UCONN hockey wants to make it to the big time, they need a new arena

In 2014-2015 the Connecticut Huskies will enter new territory. Starting next year, the UCONN hockey team will be joining one of the better leagues in college hockey, Hockey East. At this point many people may even be asking “wait, UCONN has a hockey team”? It’s easy to be forgotten at a school known for its powerhouse basketball programs, and its recent dominance in soccer and baseball. Not to mention a school whose effort to build a national football program has gone off the rails in the past few years. By joining Hockey East, the hockey team will now be entering the big time. It’s been a program that’s been heading in the right direction. With more scholarships and an impressive 19-14-4 2012-2013 season, the program is ready to make some noise on the Storrs campus. There’s just one problem.

Let me see scholarships? Check. New uniforms? Check. A new coach with National Championship credentials? Check. A suitable arena to house the team? Oh there’s the problem. The Huskies do not have a suitable home which could be the final piece to the hockey puzzle. The solution? Give them the home they deserve. After years of pouring millions of dollars into the other athletic programs, it’s time for UCONN to invest in their hockey program’s future. Despite being built-in 1998, the Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum is not a suitable home. This arena was built for a second-rate college hockey program,  which UCONN was at the time, but now it’s a joke that a Hockey East team calls this home. While the hockey program has announced that the Hockey East games will be played at the XL Center in Hartford, this is just another problem. The massive 15,000 seat arena can barely be filled for a UCONN basketball game and will look empty even if 5,000 fans show up to a hockey game. On top of that the arena is outdated, 30 minutes from campus, and will cost the school about 25,000$ to play a game there. What’s the solution to all of this? Build this team a new arena.

The Huskies need to build a facility that will not only house this team for the future, but to use as a tool to recruit top prospects. Let’s face it, despite the direction of the program, the arena situation is a major turnoff. If I’m a recruit do I want to play in two arenas that are terrible, or go to a beautiful arena of a Hockey East rival? Sounds like an easy decision easy to me. If UCONN wants to be successful in hockey just look 40 minutes south at Quinnipiac University.

After building their 52 million dollar TD Bank North Sports Center basketball and hockey complex in 2007, the Quinnipiac Bobcats program blossomed. Coach Rand Pecknold has even said that the arena is one of the biggest recruiting tools and why they have been able to become on of college hockey’s premiere programs. Six years after opening their new arena, the Quinnipiac Bobcats were playing for a National Championship, in large part because they used their arena as a major recruitment tool. UCONN has the resources and space to build a new arena. A 3000-4500 seat arena would be an adequate sized arena for this team. Bigger then their current arena but not as colossal as the XL Center. Plus, they can add all the bells and whistles to make it a state of the art home that will make Hockey East rivals envious. With Connecticut now becoming one of the better locations in the country for college hockey, thanks to Quinnipiac and the National Champion Yale Bulldogs, the state of Connecticut is becoming a major player in college hockey. We’ve seen how quickly the Yale and Quinnipiac programs have emerged onto the national stage, with nowhere near the resources that UCONN possesses. If UCONN builds a new arena and uses that as a great recruiting tool, I predict within 5 years after the arena’s completion UCONN will be a nationally ranked program. Hockey has always been a staple in New England culture, shouldn’t one of New England’s best schools share in the tradition of great hockey?  I’m not saying that UCONN can’t be great in hockey without a new arena, but it would defiantly speed up the process. Remember what they always said in Field of Dreams? If you build it they will come! If UCONN builds it, great hockey will come. Who knows. Maybe one UCONN hockey and basketball teams will be fighting over who can win the most National Championships and who is truly Connecticut’s team.