XL Center, UConn in talks for new or renovated sports venue

Transforming and remodeling Hartford’s XL Center into a more competitive arena would cost more than $250 million, while demolishing the arena and building a new one would cost almost double, according to a Hartford Courant article.

The board of the Capital Region Development Authority was given the two costly options along with one more possibility for the athletic facility, to work within the confines of the existing arena, according to the Hartford Courant article. Funding for a makeover of the venue would come mostly from the state.

Many University of Connecticut students are not looking forward to the possibility of a renovation because a potential partnership with the university and the XL Center would require UConn to play most of its basketball and hockey games in Hartford, according to the article.

“I wouldn’t be a fan of it. I just think that college sports should be played on campus, and we have one of the best venues in college basketball right here,” 8th-semester accounting major Trevor Turgeon said. “I understand that there’s a lot more to the process but as a student and fan I’d love to see all of the games at Gampel, the place just reaches another level on game day.”

2014 UConn graduate Michael Barnett agrees in saying that this may not be the university’s best decision.

“The cost of attending UConn is rising, leaving many students floundering for the ability to pay and the renovation will anger students who only have their rising cost of attendance to show for it,” Barnett said. “I think moving all games to Hartford may also bring a sharp drop in attendance, especially in less popular sports like hockey.”

The partnership would also allow UConn to overhaul how it sells tickets and to enter joint marketing agreements, according to the article. UConn would additionally receive a share in the overall revenues from events, not just the ticket sales. The partnership would be in place for 20 years.

Cost estimates for either an expansion or a completely new facility are between $450 and $500 million, which excludes the costs of necessary property acquisition, according to the article. Plans for the XL Center remodeling may have to compete for funding with other projects such as Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s plan to improve transportation in Connecticut.

In both alternatives, the XL’s stadium plans to increase seating from 15,800 to between 17,000 and 19,000, according to the article. Construction for the new arena would require approximately three years for demolition and construction, while an expansion would require anywhere from 26 to 32 months and could work around events such as UConn’s basketball and hockey games.