The bidding is on for management of the XL Center….
We’ve been waiting for some time for the other shoe to drop and, according to Greg Bordonaro in yesterday’s edition of the Hartford Business Journal, the shoe is now on the ground and at least five interested parties would like a chance to pick it up. For months rumors have been circulating about which direction the state would take when the current management contracts for Rentschler Field and the XL Center run out at the end of the current fiscal year. It was originally believed there were only three companies interested in taking over either of the contracts and AEG, the firm that currently manages the XL Center, wasn’t believed to be among them. AEG assumed sole management of the XL Center when it’s partner, Northland Investments, bowed out amid bankruptcy concerns. In 2011 Bushnell Management Services LLC, operators of the Bushnell Memorial Auditorium, took over management of Rentschler Field from the state. Bushnell has recently come under fire for the lack of major events booked at Rentschler Field but, while they operate the facility they are only responsible for the bookings of corporate and private events in the interior facilities, which are booked at near capacity, while the entertainment and sports events staged on the field are booked by two other groups, including AEG. AEG and Bushnell Management are among the five parties who have submitted letters of interest in continuing their management roles while Global Spectrum, which operates the Mass Mutual Center in Springfield and has long been reported to be an interested party, SMG, like Global Spectrum a Philadelphia based management group, and Harbor Yard Sports & Entertainment Group, which manages the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport have also submitted their interest in writing. The dynamics have changed greatly since the current contracts were put in place, making the management opportunity much more attractive and, while time to do so is limited, making it unlikely, there is still a short window of opportunity for others to offer proposals. Governor Malloy created the Capital Region Development Authority, which replaced the CDA in overseeing the operation of the facilities. The CRDA is looking to consolidate the operations of the XL Center and Rentschler Field under one company. The Bushnell is bringing a number of high powered, high profile area businessmen into the fold to enhance it’s own profile and financial support system as the CRDA is asking for plans ranging from renovation to replacement of the XL Center, and possible private takeover of the facility, currently owned by the city of Hartford, to be part of their proposals. Bringing management of Rentschler Field and the XL Center under one umbrella is long overdue and, with their willingness to do so, the CRDA has brought a number of heavy hitters, who are certain to be creative in their proposals, into the mix while taking off the handcuffs. I won’t pick favorites, I made a mistake doing that in the past, I’ll only say by bringing every possibility into the discussion the future of the facilities should become bright and unlimited, which can only be good for the entire market. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.