The Capital Region Development Authority made its final decision on Thursday. One day before a truly epic snow storm hit Hartford.
Global Spectrum, whose parent company is Comcast, won a ten year contract to run the XL Center. Their bid must have closely met the states requirements because the CRDA chose Global Spectrum by a 5-0 vote.
It was thought that AEG was the favorite especially with the relationship they had built with the city and state not to mention the big name concerts and family shows they brought to the XL Center over the last six years.
Hockey may have played a factor in why they did not get the bid?
AEG leased the building for the team to Whaler Sports and Entertainment. The AHL offices have said that Whaler Sports and Entertainment, whom ran the team from 2010-2012, was not under 'a sustainable' lease for an AHL team. The AHL called it one of the 'most onerous' leases in the entire league. The teams rent was reported as 25,000.00 dollars per game. A better agreement should have been hammered out from the start, but when WSE got into financial trouble there was no way to climb out of the high rent. Unfortunately that financial trouble ended up in lawsuits against WSE. WSE has been digging out of those debts. It must feel similar to digging out of three feet of snow.
The state has a pretty large relationship with Comcast.
Comcast is a giant corporation. Comcast owns 80% of the Connecticut television market, excluding Fairfield County. It is still the thirtieth largest television market in the U.S.
Comcast also owns NBC and they recently made use of Governor Malloy's "First Five". The “First Five” program was designed to attract larger businesses whom are looking to grow. The growth would be supplemented in cost by tax breaks and other state programs for the first five companies that bring in 200 new jobs within two years, or they can invest $25 million and create 200 new jobs but within five years instead. NBC Sports Group was the fourth to take advantage of the States offer. CIGNA, TicketNetwork, and ESPN were the first three.
Global Spectrum's bid had wording about making loge seating, media and visual upgrades, along with changes to the concourse and concessions. There is some pretty good investing going into the building, enough to save it and/or even upgrade it to sustain a few more generations of Hartford sports and entertainment customers. Howard Baldwin had presented similar ideas for downtown back in November of 2011 those plans appeared to fall on deaf ears back then. Interesting how the that has now changed?
I haven't even mentioned that Global will be running Rentschler field as well, there will be upgrades there as well.
The television power attached to Global is very interesting. I am hoping it will mean AHL games will finally be on local television, this is what the team needs, more exposure.
There is still the mystery of what team will we be seeing? That is still very snowy.
The Rangers and Global have been mentioned to be talking on a new lease. AEG who lost the bid was also said to be talking to two other teams besides the Rangers. All talks stopped with AEG, once AEG lost.
Are those two teams now talking to Global Spectrum? We know that the CRDA has a clause in the XL Center contract that guarantees an AHL lease must be secured to keep control of the building, otherwise the CRDA will terminate the contract.
The Bushnell led group, Capital Sports and Entertainment Group, did not earn a vote even for being a local group. It was unclear if the group had been in discussions or was looking to secure an AHL team. The local connection was not lost in the public, many thought that was the way the CRDA would go. Each bidder had a local connection, AEG has an LLC based in Connecticut.
Frank Russo Jr. is the Senior Vice President of Global Spectrum's Business Development area, he also is local. He has offices in Glastonbury and also has some old roots in Hartford as a former Manager of the XL Center. Mr. Russo was once in charge of the Hartford Civic Center now known as the XL Center. He managed it when it was ahead of it's time. The XL Center used to be full of retail, restaurants and entertainment. Looking back you can see many NHL teams adopted this model for their current arena's.
The main stage has been set Global Spectrum will be here for the next decade. Now its time to see which team will be here next year. Get your popcorn ready to find out, for once Hartford hockey fans can sit back and not worry about losing hockey. Now its just a question of whose hockey team are we getting.