Governor Dannel Malloy got a good look Friday afternoon the problems with the XL Center after proposing a $250 million investment into renovating the arena.
Hartford's lone major sports venue has been repaired with a patchwork of fixes over the past four decades, but major problems still remain. There are issues with the ice cooling system, the air conditioning and heating system, seats are installed that are long past their usable life, and the overall dated look of the arena hasn't even been addressed, yet.
Malloy said the time is fast approaching where major decisions and conclusions have to be made on the future of the arena.
"This is a long thought out process, and one that we think that leads to the logical conclusion that we close this facility in the not-too-distant future or we rebuild it,” he said from the open air bar behind one of the goals.
The governor has said on numerous occasions that he can't imagine a successful Hartford without such a venue.
The issue he will be up against is lawmakers fearful of such a large investment and an uncertain return on that investment.
The $250 million ask comes as the state grapples with deficits greater than $1.5 billion for each of the next two fiscal years.
Some lawmakers have even said they would block a budget with funding included, when that money could be used elsewhere.
“I think he’s going to have a very hard time selling it to the legislature because people know we don’t have money to spend on it," said Sen. Joe Markley, (R - Southington). Markley's comments are particularly notable because the Connecticut Senate is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.
Talk of improving the XL Center has picked up in the past two weeks, since Malloy and Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin sent a letter to the ownership group of the New York Islanders, after it was made public that their arrangement with the Barclays Center in Brooklyn had gone sour.
The governor insists, however, that XL Center improvements are not just about getting a professional team. He says the real goal is to get bigger concerts and events to the Capital City.
“This is not a wing and a prayer with respect to NHL hockey," he said.