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March 19, 2020

100-plus games, concerts, events nixed in downtown Hartford amid health crisis

HBJ Photo | Steve Laschever The rock band Journey kicked off its 2018 tour at the XL Center May 21, performing after Def Leppard.

The COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak is taking a major bite out of downtown Hartford’s spring events schedule.

More than 100 scheduled events have been canceled or rescheduled at downtown Hartford’s XL Center, Connecticut Convention Center, Dillon Stadium and Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, according to the quasi-public Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA), which manages those venues. 

Meantime, several concerts have been rescheduled at Infinity Music Hall in downtown’s Front Street District, also home to Ted's Montana Grill, Bear's Smokehouse Barbecue and El Pollo Guapo restaurants.

Minor League Baseball has also postponed the start of the 2020 season, meaning the Hartford Yard Goats will not begin their fourth season at downtown's Dunkin' Donuts Park on April 9. (The ballpark is not operated by CRDA.)

“There has been considerable impact on gross revenues and NOI [net operating income] at each facility,” said CRDA Executive Director Michael Freimuth, adding that activity on Front Street is down significantly since UConn Hartford’s indefinite campus closure. 

HBJ File Photo
CRDA Executive Director Michael Freimuth (right).

Gov. Ned Lamont has also ordered restaurant/bar and movie theater closures, resulting in Front Street’s Spotlight Theatre shutting its doors and eateries being left with only delivery or carryout sales.

Freimuth said the diminished activity will play into reductions in state payroll taxes, sales taxes, excise and admissions taxes. Forecasting the loss, he said, is “difficult if not impossible.”

Staff at the 16,000-seat XL Center and the convention center are currently rescheduling, postponing or canceling part of their 2020 events schedule, he said. Other full-time staffers who are not working from home continue to clean, repair and maintain those facilities.

Amid XL Center’s temporary closure, the ice has been removed from the aging facility as a cost-cutting measure, Freimuth said. After all, the AHL, home to the Hartford Wolf Pack, has suspended its 2019-20 season indefinitely and the UConn Hockey season has ended.

The event postponements and cancelations will also negatively impact a number of downtown parking garages managed by CRDA, Freimuth said.

While many events have been curbed by the global pandemic, apartment construction projects led by CRDA have not been slowed by the spread of the coronavirus, according to Freimuth, who said timelines could soon be delayed if inspectors aren’t able to visit sites.

“Our construction teams are monitoring and visiting construction sites,” he said. “There has not yet been any reported slow down at various construction sites, though we expect that timelines will begin to slip for some projects…”

CRDA, an economic development agency charged with revitalizing the city, is adjusting as Connecticut has 96 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus, although state health officials say the spread has likely impacted thousands more in-state.

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