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UConn should be very concerned about these folks at the CRDA

By Mike DiMauro

Publication: The Day

Published February 09. 2013 4:00AM

News item: The University of Connecticut was mentioned once during Thursday's 553-word press release trumpeting the selection of Global Spectrum to run the XL Center and Rentschler Field.

Once.

And that was a passing reference to UConn's submitted "letter of interest" indicating its wish to perhaps run Rentschler.

And that was ignored, too.

"We did not meet one person from the new management company during the process," a UConn source said Friday.

How odd.

Because if we didn't know better, we'd be duped into thinking that the American Hockey League is the marquee attraction, rather than UConn's two basketball programs with the combined 10 national championships.

And the only reason the upper bowl is even necessary at the XL Center anymore.

Note to the Capital Region Development Authority: If your goal was to achieve dizzying levels of consistency in ignoring the state's biggest sports entity, go to the window and collect.

I'd just like to know where we find these people.

You mean at no point in the process did anyone from the CRDA think to clue in UConn officials?

Really?

"Candidly, we feel like we have been completely left out of the process by the state and maybe intentionally," a UConn source said.

The "intentionally" part would be impossible to prove. But isn't it rather frightening that people in charge of regional development in our capital city would place such a hilariously inflated value on minor league hockey?

From the press release's first paragraph: "CRDA, a quasi-public agency established to address economic development in the capital region, chose Global Spectrum out of three final bids in part due to its ability to retain an AHL hockey presence, invest in infrastructure, and attract additional events and visitors to the area."

Let me just say this: Nobody cares about the AHL. Actually, check that. Nobody except assorted friends, relatives, the CRDA and Gov. Malloy, the self-proclaimed "hockey guy."

Nobody pays attention to the Connecticut Whale, whose average attendance is at the bottom of the league. Can the state's average sports fan name one player? And yet because the AHL offers 40 home games, its importance dwarfs UConn's?

I can't stand it.

The AHL plays 40 games. Fine. This season, the UConn men and women play a combined 20 games in Hartford. Add UConn's foray into Hockey East and UConn nights will be into the 30s in two years.

Irrelevant, apparently.

Note to the CRDA: UConn carries a massive financial burden, evidenced by the approximately $50,000 rent per game it pays for basketball games downtown. UConn keeps none of the concession or parking revenues. True, the XL Center affords UConn the ability to sell about 6,000 more tickets than it would at Gampel Pavilion.

But imagine if UConn had the same deal as, say, the University of Louisville at the KFC Yum! Center, a downtown arena. Louisville pays rent, but keeps a portion of revenues all the way up to luxury boxes.

And we wonder why the ACC chose Louisville instead? Maybe it's because the folks in Louisville have a better grasp on what the masses deem important.

"In the past, our contract with the XL Center has included a clause that there can be no other arenas to play games in state other than Gampel," a UConn source said. "We might look to change that."

Phone calls to Mitchell Etess at Mohegan Sun and Charlie Dowd at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport should be made forthwith. They'd sell the same number tickets at the aforementioned arenas as Gampel. But they'd get other amenities Hartford doesn't offer.

Mohegan: free parking and everything - shopping, dining, entertainment - under one roof.

Bridgeport: Exposure to Fairfield County and all the people with money. Imagine UConn vs. Villanova in Bridgeport with Warde Manuel and Susan Herbst schmoozing all the gold coasters in the luxury boxes?

You think they couldn't cultivate more donors?

And it would sure beat $50,000 rent.

Per game.

And spare me the argument that UConn should clam up because the state built Rentschler Field. Because do you know what the state has done with Rentschler Field? Bupkiss. The dearth of concerts and other events has been a joke.

But no more of a joke than keeping UConn in the dark about one of its home arenas.

Who needs Syracuse to visit downtown Hartford when there's always the St. John's Icecaps?

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

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