On Tuesday, there will be a public hearing at 6 p.m. at the Connecticut Convention Center about the long-term plan for the aging XL Center.
In 2015, SCI Architects completed a study that concluded the arena will need 100,000 square feet of additional space to bring the arena to the appropriate modern standards. This includes meeting building codes, ADA (American Disability Act) standards and other modern amenities that would enhance the fan experience.
The arena has been open since 1975 and hosts approximately half of both of the UConn men’s and women’s basketball teams’ home schedules and the entire men’s hockey home schedule in addition to the American Hockey League’s Hartford Wolf Pack.
From 1975-2012, the city of Hartford owned the arena, but since then, the Capital Region Development Agency (CRDA) has operated the building through a lease agreement. They have performed $40 million in renovations recently, upgrading the ice-making system and adding premium seating, among other things.
The XL Center, obviously, is very important to UConn’s short-to-mid-term athletic future. There is no concrete plan in place for the on-campus rink that Hockey East had required as part of entrance into the conference and the school’s two most popular teams, by far, play half of their schedules there.
It’s over 50 percent larger than Gampel Pavilion is (XL Center’s capacity is listed at 15,564 versus 10,167 for Gampel), closer to Fairfield County, where much of the donor base is, and generally more accessible to alumni and the community in surrounding areas.
The city of Hartford also benefits from having 14 more hockey games, eight men’s basketball games and seven women’s basketball games this academic year. The XL Center has also played host to a few conference tournaments, including the 1982 Big East (RIP) Tournament but most recently the 2015 AAC Tournament.
The 2017 American Athletic Conference men’s basketball tournament will be held at XL and there is also potential for men’s hockey to host a best-of-three first round series in March. There are even folks who think these upgrades may make Hartford an attractive option for a franchise in the NHL or maybe even the NBA D-League.
Whether we like it or not, a significant amount of UConn sporting events happen in Hartford. Because of the symbiotic relationship from both parties, this won’t change, which is why the outcome of these hearings is important to any fan of Husky sports.
The hearing will be in Meeting Room 21 and begin at 6 p.m. at the Connecticut Convention Center on 100 Columbus Boulevard in Hartford. It is open to the public. You can read the full details here.