A group of local businesspeople is pitching a USL Hartford team for Dillon Stadium, as the city’s Capital Region Development Authority works on a redevelopment plan for the historic venue.
Hartford Sports Group is led by local businesspeople Bruce Mandell, Joseph A. Calafiore and Scott Schooley, who have been working on a USL Hartford team for two years. Their effort coincides with another effort by the city to renovate Dillon Stadium, located in the Coltsville section of Hartford. The the Capital Region Development Authority issued a Request for Proposals for Dillon Stadium, and the group decided to go public with the USL effort as part of its response. The plan, as it stands, calls for HSG to work with the ICON Venue Group on a renovation plan for the disused stadium, with a USL team potentially aligned with the MLS New England Revolution, with a target launch date of the 2019 season.
“For HSG this project is about much more than soccer,” said Mandell, President of Hartford Sports Group. “We see this as a chance to bring one of Hartford’s most historic venues back to life, help complete the turnaround of the Coltsville section of the city, bring our community together through the world’s game, and deliver a soccer experience that has quickly become among the most popular events for the young, urban populations Hartford is trying to attract and retain.”
This isn’t the first run at a redevelopment plan for Dillon Stadium, built under the auspices of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration and opened in 1935. Premier Sports Management Group — Dillon Stadium developer Mitchell Anderson and his partner, James Duckett — came under fire for taking money to redevelop Dillon Stadium for pro soccer and then diverting the funds elsewhere. Duckett was convicted on 12 of 13 federal charges, while Anderson pled guilty to fraud and money-laundering charges.
“This proposal is different from previous plans involving professional sports in Hartford,” Mandell said. “Coltsville is thriving and growing. We are offering an opportunity to accelerate that growth by maximizing the potential of an existing, but underperforming Hartford asset.”
“The city of Hartford and its surrounding communities have long since proved their passion and commitment to soccer,” said USL President Jake Edwards. “The timing is now right for a successful professional soccer club in the city as the key ingredients appear to be coming together. Two important elements that contribute to a new club’s success in the USL are a soccer-specific venue in the right location, and a committed local ownership group. With their proposal for Dillon Stadium, we believe Bruce, Joe, and Scott present a compelling plan that not only creates a great home for a new USL club, but enhances a valuable community asset that can contribute to the future growth and success of Hartford, as we have seen occur in other cities across the league.”
Rendering of Dillon Stadium is from 2015 renovation plan.