Facility Friday: $100M XL Center Arena Upgrades, Nevada Wolf Pack's $5M Indoor Track, Omaha's Championship Sports Complex

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Facility Friday

Connecticut state lawmakers recently approved over $100 million in upgrades ($20 million of which would come from private funding) for the 50-year-old XL Center arena.

The funds are to be used to fix critical issues that are desperately needed.

Then there's Gov. Ned Lamont's public interest in bringing an NHL team — potentially the arena-challenged Arizona Coyotes — to Hartford, which would mean even more needed renovations and perhaps a complete revamp of the XL Center, which the Hartford Whalers once called home.

The building will undergo a renovation that executive director of the Capital Region Development Authority Michael Freimuth says, which will take about two years, with most of the work done in the summer when there are fewer events at the arena.

The renovations have three main tenets:

  • Rearrange the floor so that the stage for musical acts can be pushed back and create more sellable seats. Freimuth said the XL Center does most of its business on concerts, even though the arena serves as one of two homes for UConn basketball and hosts the Hartford Wolf Pack.
  • Rearrange the loading dock. The loading dock only allows for one truck to load in and out at a time, something Freimuth said lags way behind most other arenas and entertainment venues. The renovated loading dock will be able to offload five or six trucks at a time, which should help the XL Center compete with other venues that have more space.
  • Rebuild the entire lower bowl of the arena, creating a new concourse at ground level and creating more luxury-level seats near the floor. Right now, the arena only has one concourse, which creates long lines at restrooms and concession stands, Freimuth said. This renovation will have a positive effect on basketball and hockey games, Freimuth said, as well as concerts.

The deal paved the way for Oak View Group — which runs day-to-day operations of the XL Center — to invest $20 million in exchange for a long-term agreement to keep operating the arena.

Freimuth said the renovations will only bring the arena up to a normal standard, and will probably keep the building operational for about 20 years.

Other upgrades will be needed, including an IT revamp to address the fact that people attending events are often unable to send texts or make phone calls because of bad service. — CT Insider

The Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority board has unanimously approved the purchase of a $5.048 million indoor track that will sit in the Reno-Sparks Convention Center every year from November-March and could draw some of the nation's best track athletes to Reno.

The track should make a huge impact for Nevada women's track and field, which will be expected to host four to six meets per indoor season. The Wolf Pack also is expected to put in bids to host the Mountain West and NCAA Championships, with the track potentially drawing U.S. Championship events.

The RSCVA has agreed to pay the $5 million purchase price with $1.864 million due in fiscal year 2024 and $3.184 million due in fiscal year 2025. The track is expected to be built in Italy by Mondo, a worldwide leader in building track surfaces, before it is shipped to Reno. The track's first use would come in November 2024. The Wolf Pack has agreed to transport and store the track to and from the RSCVA each winter in a climate-controlled environment, with part of that cost being offset by Nevada requiring less travel to compete during the indoor season.

Beyond the impact on the Wolf Pack, RSCVA officials believe the addition of the track will boost tourism in the city and bolster room nights in a typically slow season. The $5 million expense is roughly 10 percent of the RSCVA's annual budget, per Ben McDonald's, the RSCVA's senior director of communications and public affairs.

The addition is expected to be ready in fall 2024. — Nevada Sports Net

A $54 million boost from the City of Omaha is expected to elevate the half-century-old Tranquility Park into a multisport youth complex that could draw regional and national tournaments.

Tranquility is managed by the Omaha Parks and Recreation Department and is the city’s only public soccer complex. Currently, it has 17 soccer fields and eight baseball fields.

Officials estimated that two-thirds of the city’s youth soccer league games are played there.

When improvements are expected to wrap up in 2027, the revamped sports facility will have up to 16 synthetic turf multi-purpose flat fields and 11 synthetic turf baseball/softball fields.

Concessions, parking areas and lighting also are to be redone.

Developing nearby — and expected to help offset some operational costs of the park — is the private Tranquility Commons mixed-use project. The 52-acre site will include a couple of hotels, several restaurants, apartments and retailers that will provide young athletes and their families entertainment and lodging after games.

While the City of Omaha is to be the principal funder of the park upgrade, officials said they hope for philanthropic support. Operations and maintenance are to be paid for with state sales “turnback tax” revenue, parking and tournament fees, and revenue from a planned Enhanced Employment Area occupation tax, a statement from the mayor’s office said.

Construction at Tranquility Park is to be done in phases, starting in 2024 with work on soccer fields. Baseball and softball improvements are set to begin in 2026, with the completion projected in 2027. — The Nebraska Examiner, City of Omaha

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