XL Center Logo
|Former names||Hartford Civic Center (1975–2007)|
|Location||1 Civic Center Plaza, Hartford, Connecticut 06103|
|Owner||City of Hartford|
|Surface||200 × 85 ft (hockey)|
|Broke ground||April 2, 1971|
|Opened||January 9, 1975|
|Closed||1978–1980 (roof collapse, renovations)|
|Construction cost||$30 million
($132 million in 2016 dollars)
|Architect||Kling & Associates
Danos and Associates
|Project manager||Gilbane Building Company|
|Structural engineer||Fraoli, Blum, and Yesselman, Engineers|
|General contractor||William L. Crow Construction Company|
|Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL) (1997–present)
Connecticut Huskies (NCAA) (1975-1978, 1980–present, part-time)
New England / Hartford Whalers (WHA / NHL) (1975–1978, 1980–1997)
Connecticut Coyotes (AFL) (1995–1996)
New England Blizzard (ABL) (1996–1998)
New England Sea Wolves (AFL) (1999–2000)
Boston Celtics (NBA) (1975–1995, part-time)
Hartford Hellions (MISL) (1980–1981)
The XL Center (originally known as the Hartford Civic Center) is a multi-purpose arena and convention center located in downtown Hartford, Connecticut. It is owned by the City of Hartford and operated by Spectra. In December 2007, the Center was renamed when the arena's naming rights were sold to XL Group insurance company in a 6-year agreement. The arena is ranked the 28th largest among college basketball arenas. Opened in 1974 as the Hartford Civic Center and originally located adjacent to Civic Center Mall, which was demolished in 2004. It consists of two facilities: the Veterans Memorial Coliseum and the Exhibition Center.
On March 21, 2007, the CDA selected the Northland/Anschutz Entertainment Group proposal. It was revealed that Northland will assume total responsibility for the building paying for any and all losses, and will keep any profits. In 2012, the CDA, put the contract out to bid with hopes of combining the operations with Rentschler Field. In February 2013, Global Spectrum of Philadelphia, was chosen to take over both the XL Center and Rentschler Field with Ovations Food Services taking over all food and beverage operations.
Hartford Civic Center
The Civic Center is the full-time home of the Hartford Wolf Pack AHL hockey team and part-time home of the University of Connecticut men's and women's basketball teams. Starting in the late 1990s, the UConn men moved most of their important games—including the bulk of their Big East Conference games—to the Coliseum. During the 2011–2012 season, for instance, they played 11 home games at the Coliseum and only eight at their on-campus facility, Gampel Pavilion. This practice continued when the Huskies joined the American Athletic Conference, successor to the original Big East, in 2013.The Uconn Men's Hockey team will move all games off campus starting in the 2014-15 season and use the XL Center as its primary home as the newest member of Hockey East.
It was the home of the New England/Hartford Whalers of the WHA and NHL from 1975–1978 and 1980–1997, and the Hartford Hellions of the MISL from 1980–1981, and the New England Blizzard of the ABL from 1996–1998, and hosted occasional Boston Celtics home games from 1975–1995. It was the home of the Connecticut Coyotes and later the New England Sea Wolves of the Arena Football League.
The arena seats 15,635 for ice hockey and 16,294 for basketball, 16,606 for center-stage concerts, 16,282 for end-stage concerts, and 8,239 for ¾-end stage concerts, and contains 46 luxury suites and a 310-seat Coliseum Club, plus 25,000 square feet (2,300 m2) of arena floor space, enabling it to be used for trade shows and conventions in addition to concerts, circuses, ice shows, sporting events and other events. The graduation ceremonies of Central Connecticut State University and other local colleges are also held annually at the XL Center.
Early history and ceiling collapse
As originally built in 1975, it seated 10,507 for hockey, and served as the home of the then–New England Whalers for three years. After failed negotiations to with the ABA to maintain a franchise to be the main tenant, coliseum management contacted the Whalers. The Whalers came from Boston after being pushed even further down in line with awful dates given from Boston Garden management as they usually came after the Bruins, Celtics and the minor league Braves. Whalers majority owner Howard Baldwin flew into Brainard Airport during a snowstorm and never looked back, moving operations to the newly built coliseum in 1975. In the early morning of January 18, 1978, just hours after the University of Connecticut Men's Basketball team defeated the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the weight of snow from the day's heavy snowstorm and a faulty roof design caused the Civic Center roof to collapse. There were no injuries. The building was heavily renovated and re-opened January 17, 1980.
The Arena hosted the Hartford Whalers from January 11, 1980 to April 13, 1997. Shortly thereafter the team relocated to Raleigh to become the Carolina Hurricanes. In 1994, new owner Peter Karmanos purchased the team and pledged to keep the Whalers in Connecticut until 1998, unless they could not sell over 11,000 season tickets. After failed negotiations to build a new downtown arena for the Whalers with then-Governor John G. Rowland, on March 25, 1997, Karmanos announced that the team would leave. The New York Rangers, looking to capitalize on Hartford as a potential market, placed its farm team there to become the Hartford Wolf Pack starting in 1997. After a short stint as the Connecticut Whale, they reverted to the Wolf Pack moniker in 2013. Renovations were complete in October 2014, which is set to serve the arena until its fiftieth birthday.
The seating capacity for hockey has gone as follows:
- 10,507 (1975–1979)
- 14,460 (1979–1980)
- 14,510 (1980–1982)
- 14,817 (1983–1985)
- 15,126 (1985–1987)
- 15,223 (1987–1989)
- 15,635 (1989–present)
Current arena and recent renovations
In September 2010, the arena was upgraded with a new center-hung scoreboard with four Sony Jumbotrons and a state-of-the-art sound system. Recent update: The Connecticut State Legislature set aside $35 million in funding for improvements to the XL Center to begin in early spring 2014 and completed in time for the start of the 2014-15 seasons of the Wolf Pack and Uconn Men's Hockey in October. Improvements include upgrades to the mechanical system, locker rooms and concourse, replacing jumbotrons with a new high definition video board, as well as aesthetic improvements such as a new bar area inside the arena and luxury seating in the lower bowl. A portion of the $35 million allocation will go towards a study on the arena’s long-term viability; either more major renovations or replacing it with a new facility.
The XL Center has held many notable events including:
- The ECAC New England Region Tournament, a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I men's college basketball tournament organized by the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC), took place at the Hartford Civic Center on March 3 and March 5, 1977. The tournament champion received an automatic bid to the 1977 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament.
- The Grateful Dead's performance, on May 28, 1977, was recorded and released as a live album, entitled To Terrapin: Hartford '77.
- Michael Jackson performed three consecutive sold–out shows at Hartofrd Civic Arena, during his Bad World Tour on March 30–31 and April 1, 1988.
- The Big East Conference women's basketball tournament was contracted to the coliseum through 2009, and it has hosted multiple NCAA women's basketball sub-regionals and regionals.
- The 1981 World Figure Skating Championships were held at the Civic Center.
- The 1982 Big East Conference and 1988–1990 America East Conference men's basketball tournaments were also here, as well as occasional games of the UConn Huskies men's basketball team.
- The 1986 NHL All-Star Game, was played in the Hartford Civic Center.
- The Davis Cup relegation play-off 1987 between United States and Germany, which included one of the longest tennis matches of all times between Boris Becker and John McEnroe.
- The 1994 NHL Entry Draft, was held in the Civic Center.
- WWF Survivor Series, featuring the debut of The Undertaker, in 1990 and Wrestlemania XI in 1995.
- The building was the host of Games 1, 2, and 5 of the 2000 Calder Cup Finals, won by the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League.
- 2006 Skate America
- The 2010 United States Gymnastics Federation National Championships and Medal Ceremony for the 2000 United States women's gymnastics team. The bronze medal ceremony was added as a result of the IOC stripping the Chinese team for underage gymnastics in April 2010.
- Diana Ross was scheduled to perform during her Return to Love Tour on July 12, 2000, but the show was cancelled, due to low ticket sales.
- The PBR (Professional Bull Riders) made their first-ever visit to the XL Center for a Built Ford Tough Series event the weekend of October 7–9, 2011.
- On November 5, 2014, the UConn men's hockey team defeated the #3 ranked Boston College men's hockey team 1-0 in the teams first ever Hockey East home opener in front of a crowd of 8,089.
The Exhibition Center consists of a 68,855-square-foot (6,397 m2) exhibit hall, a 16,080-square-foot (1,494 m2) assembly hall that can divide into two meeting rooms, plus seven meeting rooms totaling 7,390 square feet (687 m2) and two lobbies totaling 6,100 square feet (570 m2). It is used for trade shows, conventions, banquets, meetings and other events.
The surrounding shopping mall was torn down in 2004 and was replaced by street-level retail shops and a 36-story residential tower named Hartford 21 which opened in 2006 and is the tallest residential tower between New York City and Boston.
Possible new arena
With the XL Center approaching its 40th birthday, leaders in Hartford have been considering whether it should be replaced with a new facility. In 2006, developer Lawrence Gottesdiener began lobbying to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins and move them to a new Hartford arena, but the Lemieux Group was reluctant to sell. The Penguins bid was officially off the table in March 2007, when the team announced that they were beginning construction on a new arena and that they signed a 30-year deal with the city of Pittsburgh to keep the team there well into the future. Penguins owner Mario Lemieux claimed at the arena's ground-breaking ceremony that relocating the franchise was never a possibility, but was instead a negotiation tactic to help the team get funding for the arena from both state and local officials.
After the Pittsburgh bid fell through, Gottesdiener made another bid for the Nashville Predators franchise with the hope of bringing them to Hartford. That bid was lost in August 2007, as the Predators ownership ultimately decided to sell to a local holding company that would keep the team in Nashville.
Since that time, Mayor Eddie Pérez and former House Speaker James Amann continued to investigate the feasibility of a new downtown arena, with Mayor Perez making statements to tear down the XL Center and replace it with the new arena as recently as March 2008. The current lease for the XL Center runs until 2013. After that, the facility must be turned over to the city of Hartford. By that point, the city wants to decide whether the building can be refurbished or if it has enough financial support to build a new arena. Mayor Eddie Perez met with a newly formed task force of city business leaders to determine the benefits of building a new arena. "In order to consider the new arena, we have to find out where the corporate support is for a new arena and that's the charge I gave the task force," Perez said. "My hope is that by late September of this year, they can give me an idea where the corporate support would be and how we can go about organizing that support. "The mayor said that he feels the city needs a new arena to attract more events and possibly a professional sports franchise. "For a region to survive, you need a dynamic urban center and entertainment is part of a dynamic urban center," said Oz Griebel of the Metro Hartford Alliance. "If you're going to offer entertainment venues, whether they be basketball games, hockey games, rodeos, concerts, you have to have a venue that people are going to want to come to." Perez said he thinks a new arena could bring about 1,500 new jobs to the city.
Early in 2010, Howard Baldwin, the former owner of the Whalers, moved back to Connecticut and formed Whalers Sports and Entertainment in an attempt to grow interest in hockey and the NHL in Connecticut. These efforts may lead to the building a state-of-the-art arena as a replacement for the aging XL Center. In November 2011, Howard Baldwin announced a $105 million proposal to renovate the XL Center as a part of an effort to improve attendance at current minor hockey and college basketball games and improve Hartford's chances at attracting a new NHL hockey team. In June 2012, it was announced that MSG was severing ties with Baldwin and his company, WSE. AEG assumed the business operations for the Connecticut Whale immediately after that, until Global Spectrum took over the Whale's business operations, and that of the XL Center in 2013.
On February 19, 2015, the CRDA released a case study on the future of the arena. The report presents three options. The first option would be to completely tear down the existing arena down and construct a new one. The second option would be to expand the existing arena and completely rebuild the interior. The third, and final option, is to neither expand nor construct a new arena, and rather overhaul the current site. Each option will come complete with additional luxury boxes and suites, and other amenities up to par with comparable NHL facilities. The study estimates 2-3 years of construction time and a $250-$500 million price tag.
- "Opportunities for The Hartford Civic Center" (PDF). The Connecticut Development Authority. p. 36. Retrieved March 30, 2008.
- "Ground is Broken For the Civic Center". Hartford Courant. April 2, 1971. Retrieved September 20, 2011.
- Swift, Mike (January 9, 1995). "A Quiet Hartford Civic Center Turns 20 Today". Hartford Courant. Retrieved September 21, 2011.
- Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved November 10, 2015.
- Modern concrete: Volume 40. Chicago: Pit & Quarry Publications. 1976. p. 20.
- "XL Center". Emporis. Retrieved September 21, 2011.
- "Failure Cases - Hartford Civic Center". Materials Education and Research Pathway. Retrieved February 20, 2012.
- Jacobs, Jeff (February 3, 2013). "Secrecy On XL Center, Rentschler Plans Isn't Helping Matters". Hartford Courant. Retrieved June 10, 2014.
- Gosselin, Kenneth R. (February 7, 2013). "Philadelphia Group Picked To Run XL Center, Rentschler Field". Hartford Courant. Retrieved June 10, 2014.
- Martin, Rachel. "Hartford Civic Center Arena Roof Collapse". University of Alabama at Birmingham. Retrieved November 20, 2009.
- "1979-80 Hartford Whalers Results and Schedule". Hockey Database. Retrieved February 27, 2013.
- McGowen, Deane (March 22, 1981). "Duguay Gets 2 Goals As Rangers Win, 6-4". The New York Times. Retrieved February 27, 2013.
- Berlet, Bruce (February 13, 1984). "Whalers Drill Oilers, 11-0, Flood Record Books". Hartford Courant. Retrieved February 27, 2013.
- Jacobs, Jeff (March 27, 1992). "Playoff Sales Are Down". Hartford Courant. Retrieved February 27, 2013.
- Jacobs, Jeff (October 5, 2010). "XL Center Gets New Video Boards". Hartford Courant. Retrieved June 10, 2014.
- "ECAC Men's Basketball Tournaments". Varsity Pride. Retrieved June 10, 2014.
- "1977 ECAC Men's Basketball Tournaments". Varsity Pride. Retrieved June 10, 2014.
- "XL Center (Hartford, CT)". University of Connecticut Department of Athletics. Retrieved June 10, 2014.
- Broun, Sara (October 6, 2011). "PBR Built Ford Tough Series Visits Hartford for First Time". Professional Bull Riders. Retrieved June 10, 2014.
- Associated Press (April 7, 2006). "Developer Wants to Buy Penguins for Possible Move to Hartford". USA Today. Retrieved June 10, 2014.
- "City of Hartford Seek Consultant to Advise on Feasibility of Developing New Downtown Arena" (Press release). City of Hartford, Connecticut. August 30, 2006. Retrieved February 14, 2007.
- Green, Rick (November 15, 2011). "NHL Back In Hartford In Five Years: Crazy Or Brilliant?". Hartford Courant. Retrieved November 15, 2011.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to XL Center.|
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