Since Howard Baldwin came back to town and into the public eye just a little over two years ago a lot has already changed. He is still here now and may plan to be even though his marketing firm Whaler Sports and Entertainment may not be.
We’ve seen him create a Whalers Fan Fest that brought out 4,800 people to revisit Hartford Whaler history.
We have seen him complete the re-brand of the Rangers top affiliate to make it more personal an appeal to a broader Hartford hockey fan base.
We watched as thousands brave the elements in Howard Baldwin’s Whale Bowl in February of 2011. A two week outdoor even featuring Alumni, AHL, College, and High School games.
He has rebuilt the corporate interest into the hockey market in Hartford. Large companies within the area like United Health Care, Aetna, Travelers, The Hartford, and many more have signed up to back Howard in his Hartford hockey dream. Now that he is out of the picture will that corporate support step out because they don’t want to work with AEG and MSG?
We have heard of his interest in getting an NHL franchise back in Hartford someday. We seen and heard that he has spoken to NHL suits and Mr. Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner. That’s all very moot now because he is involved with no hockey team. It was interesting to hear NHL talk in the city that hosted an NHL team for 17 years.
In November 2011, Howard laid down a road map for the downtown area. It shows how Hartford can become a destination city for entertainment and sporting events.
Well that’s an idea that went up in smoke, we can now hope that more than a few thousand come to see BC trounce UConn in Hockey East. Well at least for the first few years that’s what we may see.
The Connecticut Whale will be involved either way but the big client now for the XL Center really will be UConn. They would be involved in college hockey and in college basketball. UConn would move more of their games to a newly renovated XL Center, and possibly the XL may be able to host some Hockey East Tournament games in the future.
Chuck Steedman said in yesterdays Hockey East press conference that he will bid on a Hockey East Championship.
This is great for UConn and the people surrounding Hartford but honestly the big catch would be if a new NHL team could be here within the next five years. Not only would that become the main attraction to the down town area but new jobs and new businesses would come with it too. Much more than would for AHL or UConn by far.
The paint on the plans probably is so dry its peeling and yet the complaints and negativity is as fresh as a daisy when it comes to dreaming big. Many people are not interested in investing in the downtown area, they just don’t feel like Hartford is worth saving.
The NHL was here once and when they left the estimated loss to the downtown area was 75 million dollars, can you imagine what the increase in revenue to the city would be if the Whalers were here and playing 41 home games a year.
Hartford sure could use 41 nights of people eating out, buying souvenirs and paying for parking. It makes the local business start to drool. When you add in the other events like UConn hockey, UConn basketball, concerts and other XL Center events you realize that Hartford could become a much closer destination than the two hour drive to Boston or New York.
The tricky part that probably killed the plan was it couldn’t pay for itself. The renovation and upgrades to the downtown area are cheaper than it would be to build a new entertainment complex but they are not cheap enough to just get a green light from The Mayor, The Governor and the citizens of Connecticut. In fact I can’t remember one positive thing that came from our elected leaders.
Howard’s plan called for 105 million dollar restoration and upgrade. The XL Center would have received larger concourses, updated restrooms, updated concession stands, a sports bar, and a team store. The Sports bar and Team store are an important part of a hockey night in Hartford. It would be fantastic to have but its something that the AHL has failed to draw interest too downtown. Just not enough money goes into downtown Hartford from the AHL.
Its really a shame that after walking out of a great sporting event if you want a drink, a hat or something to eat you have very limited choices. When people walk out the door their money goes with them.
Howard’s recent failure with WSE is very disappointing. He had brought interest to revitalizing the downtown area but with him gone you can expect things to regress to how they were just before he left. AEG and MSG running the XL Center and not putting much effort into revitalizing Hartford.
The truly sad thing about Hartford is its only the dreamers who bring fresh new and exciting ideas to Hartford. In 2006 it was Northland’s Larry Gottsdiener and in 2010 it was Howard Baldwin again. Its going to take another dreamer for Hartford to get off its seat and start moving forward.
How long will it be before the next guy with good plans comes along, it could be awhile too.