These are just ten good reasons on why Hartford is back on the map as being a potential site for an NHL team to relocate. The chips of the last five years have fallen where they may and the layout is good for Hartford. Howard Baldwin said five years ago that Hartford could regain a team if the city were prepared to be an answer to an NHL problem.
Hartford has done it’s part and become that viable relocation market. Here is a list of the top ten reasons why Hartford can now land a franchise. The only thing missing is for the NHL to relocates some franchises soon.
UConn’s New Hartford Campus:
Having a college campus in downtown Hartford provides the city with new residents. Residents who will be looking for things to do. It is estimated that over 2,000 students and faculty will be living downtown when the campus opens in 2017. The new campus will continue to bring thousands more into the city on a daily basis each new year. It is not enough that there is an influx of new people, the key here is the age range. Over 50% of the people within the Hartford market are between the ages of 20-59 which is also the most frequent ages of ticket buyers for arena events. The NHL certainly won’t mind that statistic.
Connecticut Fast Track:
The transit project that once was so scrutinized by the public has already proven to be vital in making Hartford a destination again. Local business riders have praised the route as helpful to their commute and a solution to traffic and parking. Central Connecticut State University alone was responsible for nearly 100,000 rides over this past summer months. The project has been so successful that there is discussion of an eastward route for the other half of the state. The more public transportation the better for Hartford chances in getting a major league franchise.
Hartford’s Residential Rebound:
You’ve heard all the negativity on social media on how no one wants to live downtown but that is not true according to recent statistics from the Capital Region Development Authority. All together nine C.R.D.A. residential projects have already exceeded projections by nearly a year. Experts in the market expected at best to get about 10 renters a month but ended up with 45 renters per month. Almost all of people moving in are young, single and new to the city of Hartford. An increase in the city’s population, especially downtown, only helps sustain a “Transformed” XL Center and its potential major league tenant.
The Big Investors:
Many have suggested that there is no investment group interested in bringing an NHL team to Hartford. There is a belief that the interest in Hartford is nothing more than a smoke and mirror magic trick. No one has come up with the identity of the investors, even after a couple of years of listening and looking. Either way Malloy mentioned them and that he was working with them on ‘Face The State’ with Dennis House back in February of 2013. I have heard rumblings of who they are but until Malloy says that they have split or found a better offer somewhere else you have to assume they are here.
Stadium Consultant International’s Hartford Market Analysis:
If you want to prove that Hartford is a major league city you couldn’t have gotten a better endorsement than SCI. They have worked on some of the NHL’s most elite arenas. It would be hard to disprove their statistics on the XL Center or this market. In short, the renovation fits for a major league team. Hartford is comparable in the key figures that count compared to other big cities who host major league tenants like Raliegh, Buffalo, Nashville and Birmingham. I think everyone should know by now that Hartford is small but it still has more fortune 500 companies here than New Orleans, Salt Lake City, Nashville, Raleigh, Columbus or Buffalo,(5). There is more than enough sufficient corporate support for a team.
NHL Expansion Sites:
Nothing could have worked out better for Hartford when two potential relocation cities suddenly became expansion cities. Las Vegas and Quebec took themselves out as potential rivals for Hartford’s chances at relocation when they applied for expansion franchises from the NHL. As you know that expansion process has been as slow as molasses in January. Hartford quickly stepped up at least two spots on the NHL’s list of relocation cities.
UConn’s Long Term XL Center Deal:
UConn has been the state’s biggest sports attraction for years now and the addition of UConn Men’s Hockey to the Hartford spotlight has brought in Hockey East record breaking attendance numbers. This should continue along with UConn Men’s and Woman’s basketball. Combined these dates drew in about a quarter of a million people last year. The power house of UConn makes an attractive co-tenant for an NHL team and it also makes for a very profitable arena. The long term agreement provides the comfortable stability major league tenants look for.
XL Center “Transformation”, New Arena:
It is as simple as can be, there would be no chance of a new team without a new arena. A renovated one fits the NHL’s requirements. Requirements for renovations have worked or are being considered in several other NHL markets like Raleigh and New York. There are considerations for a renovated NHL arena plan in Seattle. The plan here in Hartford is to make the XL Center into an inviting building with modern amenities and accommodations. It will also be modern in capacity. The XL Center has always been the largest indoor arena in Hartford and it will improve on that greatly from the NHL Whaler days of 15,635 seats. The XL Center renovations will bring the seating capacity up to a major league number of 18,000 seats. Having an arena of that size will make it NHL acceptable and also make it possible to be a host of the NCAA Tournament. The renovations will take a huge step into making the Veterans Memorial Coliseum an economic driver in the city again. It will also make it competitive with any modern arena within a two hour drive. If you still don’t buy it check out the XL Center renderings they make you believe that the XL Center can look like a major league arena again.
The Whalers Brigade
By Whalers Brigade I mean the Hartford Whaler Nation fan base. The Whaler fan base is not the biggest, it is not the most organized but the credit should go to them for keeping the brand alive in the media. After 19 years of dealing with a colossal mistake, by several parties, the fan base has weathered the storm and found them in a luck of the draw type situation. The fans have never forgotten and also received some help from the teams’ fight song, the Brass Bonanza. The Hartford Whalers have remained relevant by Whaler fans with little direction or cohesion as a group. When called into action it seems that Whaler fans come from every corner of the state, including western Massachusetts. Whether it is the Whale Bowl 2011, Whaler Fest 2010, or some Hartford Wolf Pack/Connecticut Whale games that feature Whaler themed events, Whaler fans have shown up with numbers that raise eyebrows in the NHL and the media.
The Hartford Whaler Brand:
There is no other way to say it, if the Hartford Whalers logo wasn’t international known, recognized and admired we might never have seen an opportunity for Hartford like this again. Simply put the Whalers logo today is still a
top-ten seller. When visiting the NHL story in Manhattan on different occasions the employees inside continue to say the Whaler stuff is a mover. The brand does so well that even a guy like me gets attention for writing about the former team. People would stop and look at toxic waste if there was a Hartford Whaler logo on it. The sports logo that really does sell itself.
It is a breath of fresh air, Hartford’s positives are starting to turn the tide on the city’s image. The list of detractors to the viability of Hartford as an NHL market is dwindling as the NHL landscape continues to shift. There can never be a guarantee but one by one Hartford has placed a positive string of movement to make it a major league city again. There is just a huge difference from a city wanting a team to being able to support a team and Hartford is well on it’s way to the latter.