With its low self-esteem and high urban blight, Hartford is the ultimate underdog city. Sad City Hartford documents the joys, sorrows and eccentricities of New England's Rising Star.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Hartford Real Estate & Hockey Markets

The real estate problems that are currently going on in Hartford may not have much to do with hockey but don't be fooled; the market is affecting hockey in the city.

The G. Fox building is going into foreclosure. It is just one of dozens, probably many dozens of Hartford properties that are in foreclosure or near to it. We have been hearing about this for a while now and as the state and country economy slightly improves, Hartford's own economy lags behind.

The one silver lining I can find in all of these Hartford properties that are either empty buildings or they are in a financial noose.  It would be easy for a billionaire to come in and buy half the town. If an ambitious someone wanted to make their name in Hartford, they could do it. But it wouldn't be easy.

An opportunity within the is pursuing the hockey market.  Hockey has been successful in Hartford before and could be a huge key to a Hartford revival. Hockey has been the only major professional sports league in CT and has been been a part of Hartford for 38 years.

The Connecticut Whale hosts about 40 home games a year pulling in close to 200,000 spectators annually to the XL Center. That presence can't be ignored and when the NHL was king in Hartford the number swelled closer to half a million fans a year. That's the kind of foot traffic that brings good restaurants, good places to live and good places to shop. Some estimate that when the NHL left Hartford it cost the city $75 million a year. Nothing since has been added to the downtown area that could even remotely replace that revenue.If the AHL left due to the city, it wouldn't be as large a loss, but it would be felt by the remaining commercial and residential properties in downtown.

There may be a cavalry on the horizon for Hartford. UConn has been asked to consider joining Hockey East.  The state has had a positive response to the idea and it appears it is going to be pushed forward. UConn is definitely going to need to invest to get up to Hockey East's standards and I believe they have to update a few things in the XL Center. Hopefully that may lead to more discussion on Howard Baldwin's revitalization plan.

So far the city has responded to Howard's plan with the chirping of crickets. Does the city want to move forward or wallow in what was once a bustling downtown? Howard Baldwin Sr.'s plan looks much more viable when you have the Connecticut Whale, AEG's concerts and entertainment, UConn college hoops and hockey events drawing spectators year round.

I think we have already hit bottom as a hockey market. The NHL may still never come but I dont think the existing hockey fan base will dwindle. With the rebranding of the CT Whale,  I think the market has started to grow. As for the AHL team and Whaler's Sports & Entertainment (WSE) it's going to be an interesting year.

We all know that WSE will be waiting to see who runs the XL Center in the next lease. Right now the two known competitors for the building are AEG, and The Bushnell. As the summer rolls on WSE will have to settle down and plan out next season. The city will have to decide how to fix the current real estate mess and hopefully some new investors will capitalize on the down market.

WSE has announced the home opener is Friday, October 12, 2012.


  1. That's a very interesting proposal, would be great to see for sure.

    I think the elephant in the room is that the taxes here are far too high and not business friendly. They can devise all the slogans, iQuilts, and NHL franchises they want too, the bottom line is that private businesses will not invest in areas with taxes like Hartford. It's something like 7% property tax!

  2. I agree with Eric C., just look at the Connecticut based businesses that moved out of Hartford and into the suburbs.

    As for the Sporting front, Howard Baldwin means well and while I believe that Uconn hockey would be another big boost, and I really do hope that happens, Hartford may want to direct it's attention to an alternative sport; soccer. Since Hartford has one of the largest Latino and Puerto Rican communities in the US, add to that a largely under-served sports market, the 29th largest media market in the US and fully developed infrastructure, Hartford has huge potential for the soccer market. Now I'm not saying we should beat down the door of MLS, since it seems their expansion plans are going either to the South or Canada but the NASL might be a good start. Plus, they have a team in San Juan...

  3. Puerto Ricans are not big soccer fans, they tend to gravitate to baseball, boxing and other popular "american" sports.

    I do however want to see soccer in Hartford.

    Investment wise, and property value wise, I would bring the rock cats to downtown Hartford. Build them a 20-30 million dollar stadium Just North of I-84 and you would be bringing 5000+ people to the CBD ~80 times a year and thats 400,000 visitors. This is a MUCH SMALLER investment. I would of course also want to see a new arena built, not a renovation, and I want me some NHL Whale back (although I do go to the AHL games).

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