CT Construction Digest Friday February 21, 2020
Transportation plan: If state borrows for roads, some wonder if that will cut into other services
Water main project to begin next week in Mystic
Mystic — The Aquarion Water Company has announced its plans for a water main replacement project on Bruggeman Place that is scheduled to begin Monday and be completed by the end of April.
The company said the project, which will replace 1,360 feet of water main, is part of its ongoing program to improve its distribution system, ensure water quality and reduce leaks and water main breaks that can interrupt service.
During construction, customers should expect minor traffic delays and possible detours from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Bruggeman Place is located off Route 1 across from the Mystic Seaport Museum.
To keep customers informed about scheduled or unscheduled work, Aquarion uses a CodeRED notification system to call affected customers. Customers can sign up for the free service at bit.ly/AWcodered.
Osten pushing for Norwich Hospital property cleanup funds
Groton — State Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, sought assurances Thursday that the state Department of Economic and Community Development supports Preston’s request for an additional $7 million in state funding to finish an environmental cleanup of the former Norwich Hospital property.
Raising her hand during a breakfast meeting of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut at the Groton Inn & Suites, Osten asked a DECD official if the funding would be on the agenda of the State Bond Commission’s next session.
Glendowlyn Thames, the DECD’s deputy commissioner, who had spoken to chamber members, said she was unfamiliar with the funding request, and noted that the state’s bond budget has not yet been passed.
Osten said the state should approve the requested brownfields grant “to clean up its own mess” and allow Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment to move forward with its plan to develop the nearly 400-acre property off Route 12. She called MGE’s $400 million to $600 million development plan for what's now known as Preston Riverwalk “a complete game-changer” for the region.
Preston officials last year requested the additional cleanup funds after the discovery of previously undocumented coal ash contamination. The total cost of the additional cleanup has been pegged at $9 million, which includes a $2 million loan previously approved by the state.
In 2015, the state allocated $10 million for demolition and remediation work on the site.
Preston acquired the former hospital property from the state in 2009 and later agreed to sell it to MGE after completing the cleanup. MGE, which so far has offered only conceptual plans showing a theme park, sports and entertainment venues, hotels, housing and a marina, would market the property to third-party developers.
Osten also suggested during the chamber meeting that southeastern Connecticut’s gaming tribes — the Mohegans and the Mashantucket Pequots — should be represented on the Governor’s Workforce Council, which Gov. Ned Lamont created in October by executive order. The 24-member panel’s charge is to foster partnerships among government, the business community, higher education and nonprofits to develop the state’s workforce.
Osten said the tribes, each of which is among the top 10 employers in the state, should have been invited to join the council.
The senator also called for the DECD to “get on board” with her efforts to modernize gaming in the state through the Jobs and Revenue Act, proposed legislation that would authorize the tribes to provide sports wagering and invest in a Bridgeport casino and authorize the Connecticut Lottery Corp. to offer online ticket sales and online keno.
Peter Denious, president and chief executive officer of AdvanceCT (formerly the Connecticut Economic Resource Center), a nonprofit that works with the DECD to recruit businesses and promote the state’s economic competitiveness, also addressed chamber members.
Study: Investing in Hartford’s aging XL Center would lift the arena’s finances, but not a cureall
new study requested by Gov. Ned Lamont’s office and UConn says new and reconfigured seating at downtown Hartford’s XL Center would significantly improve the aging arena’s financial status, but still not draw interest from outside investors or many more events.
The nearly 200-page study by Texas-based consultancy Conventions, Sports & Leisure International (CSL) recommends adding 1,000 “event level” and “concourse club” seats, 52 “loge” seats and 42 small group boxes and luxury suites at the XL Center. Implementing the modernized, luxury seating closer to the floor could generate an additional $3.6 million in gross revenue for the 16,000-seat arena, the study says.
CSL’s market demand study says the potential renovation would encourage consumer and event growth, helping slash the XL Center’s annual operating losses from $2 million to $3 million down to an estimated $482,000 by 2024.
However, the study’s plan has a few caveats, including that it would only likely draw three new events a year to the facility, and would not attract private investors to the project, it says.
“One of the most important things we found was a renovation of this facility is needed in order to maintain your current event load,” CSL Project Manager Adam Kerns said during the Capital Region Development Authority’s (CRDA) board meeting Thursday night. (XL Center is operated by CRDA and Spectra Venue Management, a subsidiary of Comcast-Spectacor.)
“This has an impact on revenue generation, spectator amenities, and artist amenities, which influences someone’s decision to come back and play the venue,” Kerns said.
The study didn’t specifically say how much its proposed improvements would cost, but policymakers lately have been discussing a potential $100 million investment in the aging arena, which is approaching the end of its useful life.
The XL Center study was requested last year by the governor's administration and UConn, which is especially concerned about the venue’s future due to its men’s and women’s basketball team’s move to the Big East Conference next year.
CSL, which has examined some 2,000 sports and entertainment facilities nationally, spent the last four months estimating market demand for new premium seating at a potentially renovated XL Center, and projected how much more revenue those upgrades could generate. Kerns on Thursday did not estimate what its recommended plan would cost, but said building a new arena to replace XL Center could cost between $500 million to $600 million.
The study also notes CSL conducted an online survey that collected 2,494 responses via the XL Center, UConn and the MetroHartford Alliance.
“Limited respondents expressed concern over funding and the perceived benefit of such an investment, while the vast majority of respondents feel an improved XL Center is an important priority to showcase Hartford and revitalize the downtown city center,” the study says.
Kerns said CSL also solicited feedback from in-person interviews and focus groups with “corporate decision makers,” UConn donors and other buyers outside the market that attend games at the XL Center.
A majority of those participants, he said, agreed the arena is “a vital community asset,” and that they preferred premium seating near the floor as opposed to the existing Champions Club lounge on the upper level of the facility.
“Maintaining your capacity is extremely important,” Kerns said. “Those 16,000 seats is what separates this venue from others in the marketplace.”