The renovated XL Center in downtown Hartford will open its doors for its first sporting event as the Celtics host the Knicks in an NBA preseason game tonight.

The nearly 40-year-old building has been undergoing a $35 million makeover this summer. Fans will see a new video scoreboard, improvements to the concourse and restrooms, and some high-end seating in the lower bowl. There have also been upgrades made to the locker rooms and to the guts of the building, bringing the entire venue up to code.

The aim was to have the building ready for the hockey season, as the XL Center will host the AHL Hartford Wolf Pack and UConn. But the Celtics-Knicks game will provide the unveiling for sports fans. The building last hosted an NBA preseason game in 2012, as the Knicks beat the Celtics, 98-95, in overtime. With stars such as Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Carmelo Anthony on the court, the game drew 14,218.

In 2010, 15,318 turned out to see Garnett and Pierce lead the Celtics to a 97-84 preseason win over the Knicks at the XL Center. Former UConn star Ray Allen also played for the Celtics in that game.

The Celtics have a deep history in the building. Boston played 66 regular-season games in Hartford from 1975-95.

This year, the Celtics are in rebuilding mode. The team’s marquee player, Rajon Rondo, is out with a hand injury, so Hartford fans will see a young lineup that will likely include first-round draft picks Marcus Smart and James Young.

The Celtics are coming off a 98-78 win over the 76ers Monday night in Boston.

Anthony, who signed a $124 million contract in the offseason, returns to lead the Knicks. This will be the first preseason game …read more