Developer proposes new Hartford arena, considers buying NHL team
December 28, 2005 -- Associated Press

Eight years after the Whalers left Hartford, a developer says he is considering bringing another National Hockey League team to the capital city that would play in a new $250 million arena he wants to build.

"We've got our own money, we're willing to invest in an arena, and we're willing to buy a team," said Lawrence R. Gottesdiener, head of Northland Investment Corp. "It would be an important entity and symbol of the city, the region and the state to provide a first-class venue for the residents."

Northland owns $500 million worth of property in Hartford.

Gottesdiener's plan calls for building a publicly subsidized, 16,000-seat sports and entertainment venue that would be home to a major league hockey team. The University of Connecticut men's and women's basketball teams would also play some of their home games there.

The new arena would replace the Hartford Civic Center under Gottesdiener's proposal, which was announced Wednesday and comes amid talk of the Civic Center's future.

The Connecticut Development Authority has decided to study how to best use the city-owned Civic Center, which the CDA leases. The agency's move has shelved a plan by former Whalers owner and movie producer Howard Baldwin, who wants to buy out the state's lease, improve the Civic Center and try to bring the Whalers back.

"We've talked to Howard and we think Howard is a great guy," Gottesdiener told The Hartford Courant. "We told Howard that we would consider working with him on the hockey side. But, again, Northland has our own money. We'll put real money towards an arena and we'll put real money towards buying a team."

Baldwin could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

Gottesdiener said the Civic Center site would be too small for the new arena, and he is considering other locations in downtown Hartford.

Even if he cannot bring back an NHL team, Gottesdiener said the new arena would be viable with the UConn basketball teams as the anchor tenants.

But the arena project would require significant public money, he said.

"The public has gotten tired of 100 percent subsidized facilities," he said. "But the city still needs to prime the pump. Subsidy is going to be part of the equation."

Gottesdiener said the $250 million needed for the arena could come from several public and private sources.

City leaders said Gottesdiener's plan is good news for Hartford.

Matt Hennessy, chief of staff for Mayor Eddie A. Perez, said city officials and Gottesdiener have discussed the arena proposal several times.

"He's obviously been very active here, he has a lot invested in the area, and he has a proven track record," Hennessy said.