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September 9, 2022

Opening of XL Center sports betting venue delayed to spring

Michael Puffer | Hartford Business Journal Michael Freimuth, executive director of the Capital Region Development Authority (right) points to supports for a temporary enclosure for a new sports bar and betting lounge at the XL Center Wednesday, as he showed the site to leaders from the Connecticut Lottery Corp., including (left) CLC President and CEO Gregory Smith.

A sports bar and betting lounge under construction on the western side of the XL Center in downtown Hartford won’t open this fall as originally hoped.

A $15 million package of upgrades for the XL, including the lounge, has hit delays, partially due to supply chain issues spilling out of the COVID-19 pandemic. That means the sports betting lounge won’t debut for the 2022 NFL season, which kicked off Thursday night.

“And the XL is loaded with surprises that pop out once you touch something,” said Michael Freimuth, executive director of the Capital Region Development Authority.

The authority, which runs the sports and entertainment arena, had built in a large budget contingency due to known problems in the construction industry, Freimuth said. So, the project isn’t over budget, he said, but completion of the sports betting venue is now anticipated to carry into spring.

A new rendering of the sportsbook planned at the XL Center. It would be located off Ann Uccello Street.

The CRDA never envisioned the sports bar and betting lounge to be a big moneymaker, but rather serve as a complement to existing services and a draw that brings more people downtown.

The sports bar/lounge is part of a broader package of XL Center improvements under a contract with Providence-based Dimeo Construction. This also includes upgrades to loading ramps, the western concourse, additional restrooms, commercial kitchen upgrades and improvements to other systems.

The new sports lounge will include a wall of glass overlooking Ann Uccello Street. Delivery of that glass has been delayed, forcing CRDA to have a temporary plywood enclosure built at a cost of about $200,000.

“It allows us to continue to build-out the improvements while also keeping the building tight so we can control conditions critical to making ice for hockey and sustain the atmosphere in the building,” Freimuth said.

Once the glass wall system arrives, the coated plywood cover and related supports will be removed and replaced, Freimuth said. 

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