Budget reduces renovation money for XL Center

The latest budget proposal is cutting renovation money for the XL Center (WFSB)

Cities and towns are heavily impacted by what happens with the state budget.

Something else that is impacted is the XL Center in Hartford, which is in need of some improvements.

The center wanted $250 million and then scaled it back to $125 million.

The current budget proposal now gives them $40 million, so those needed renovations will need to be pared down.

Earlier this week, the XL Center was packed for the Guns N’ Roses concert, but those wins are few and far between.

Anthony Lazzaro from the Capital Region Development Authority, which oversees the Xl Center, says the arena needs major renovations, that could include an interior gutting, just to be able to stay competitive within the state.

“The casinos, they can underwrite the entire show and eliminate all risk. We can't do that. We have taxpayer dollars,” Lazzaro said.

Josh Falco goes to the XL Center several times a year.

The Simsbury native finds it a quicker alternative to the theatres and arenas at the casinos.

“I think it's good to have that option there, the Wolf Pack during hockey season is a good thing to have a team to root for,” Falco said.

But in this day and age of entertainment, the world-class venues found in the southeastern part of the state are the capital city's biggest competition.

“We're really seeing the shows migrating to the casinos and with the opening of Springfield that's likely to impact us as well,” Lazzaro said.

That's why the Capital Region Development Authority initially asked the state for $250 million to overhaul the arena.

Thursday’s passed budget gave the XL Center $40 million in bonded funds.

Lazzaro says it's a setback and couldn't pinpoint how the money would be used.

“We would probably be looking more for efficiencies and money generating improvements as opposed to longer term improvements,” Lazzaro said.

In order to get that $40 million, lawmakers demanded the XL Center try to be sold by putting out a request for a bid.

Lazzaro says it won't be easy if the money isn't there to make the four-decade old arena an attractive opportunity for an investor, but that doesn't mean they won't try.

“We're going to task our architects with this and see what they can do,” Lazzaro said.

As for the locals that use it, they wished lawmakers would've given the iconic Hartford arena a little more love.

“You have to spend money to make money so if you want someone to come downtown, you have to give them a reason,” Falco said.

Right now, the XL Center says they're willing to try and sell the arena if it means getting the $40 million. They did put a feeler out there earlier this year and it got just one response.

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