Bob CrawfordBY: BOB CRAWFORD, Voice of the Connecticut Whale


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Includes Renovation of XL Center and Revitalization of Trumbull Streetscape as Dining and Entertainment Destination

Whalers Sports & Entertainment (WSE) chairman and CEO Howard Baldwin today unveiled his ambitious “New England Sports & Entertainment (NESE)” plans to use hockey to revitalize downtown Hartford.  Baldwin detailed the plans at the Metro Hartford Alliance’s “Rising Star Breakfast” at the Bushnell.

The centerpiece of Baldwin’s proposals is an outline for transforming the XL Center into an NHL-ready facility and the pledge to pursue the purchase of an NHL franchise.

“An independent economic study has indicated that a refurbished XL Center would create as many as 1,500 new jobs per year, and economic activity would be boosted by an average of between $48.3 million and $61 per year” Baldwin said.  “And new state net revenues would total between $7.3 million and $8.6 million per year.

“With that in mind, our goal is to work with the City of Hartford, the State of Connecticut and the corporate community to restore the XL Center to its rightful place as a sports and entertainment destination.”

Also speaking at the event was Robert Mead, Senior Vice-President of Marketing, Product and Communication of Aetna, which sponsored the gathering and commissioned the economic study.

Having already taken steps to revitalize hockey in Hartford through the Whaler Reunion event in the summer of 2010, and the re-branding of the city’s AHL franchise to the Connecticut Whale, NESE now proposes to use a strategic public-private partnership to take the next step.

The NESE plan is for a major overhaul of the XL Center’s mechanical systems and concessions, arena seating and luxury-level seating.  In concert with the coliseum renovation, the Trumbull streetscape adjacent to the arena will be transformed into a walkable dining and entertainment mecca.  That would involve the pursuit of a Hard Rock Café or Planet Hollywood, and the opening of an IMAX theater and food court.  Also sought for the dining options would be a new Geno Auriemma’s “Fast Break” pub and restaurant.

The newly-redesigned XL Center would also feature a visible TV media center at the corner of Church and Trumbull Streets, and state-of-the-art broadcast facilities throughout the building.

Pre-design estimates for the cost of the arena and streetscape upgrades total $105 million, for which state and city funding, as well as access to economic development grants and/or loans, will be sought.

“Change is underway in Hartford, with many important players and participants,” said Baldwin.  “Together we can bring 35 more years of hockey and entertainment to downtown Hartford and to the State of Connecticut.”

A video presentation that accompanied Baldwin’s speech can be viewed via the following link:

Images/renderings of the arena and streetscape plans can be found at:

The AHL’s Connecticut Whale is operated by Whalers Sports and Entertainment, a Hartford-based sports marketing and event firm founded by Howard Baldwin and Howard Baldwin, Jr..  The team is the top player-development affiliate of the NHL’s New York Rangers.

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