Three plans have been pitched as proposals to redevelop Dillon Stadium, a venue that is being eyed for Hartford professional soccer.
Officials have been looking renovate Dillon Stadium, which was originally constructed under the auspices of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration and opened in 1935. Such an upgrade could help bring professional soccer to Hartford.
One bid comes from Hartford Sports Group, an organization that includes local businessman Bruce Mandell. The proposal from Hartford Sports Group estimates a $10.7 million overhaul to Dillon Stadium–to be financed by the city or state–that would bring the facility to professional standards. Hartford Sports Group would then establish a Hartford USL club, and the organization would pay $125,000 in annual rent for use of the stadium.
Another pitch came from entrepreneur Aaron Sarwar. Sarwar, who relaunched Hartford City FC as a member of the National Premier Soccer League, says he would contribute $400,000 toward the renovation of Dillon Stadium. With the upgrades, Dillon Stadium would host Hartford City FC and potentially a Hartford NASL club.
A third proposal, from TJ Clynch, would see the stadium overhauled to accommodate high school, college, and potentially professional clubs. He offered an initial investment of $1.5 million, and proposes renovating the stadium in three phases, the last of which would bring it to professional standard.
The city’s Capital Region Development Authority is expected to issue a recommendation to city officials by the end of this month. More from The Hartford Courant:
Michael Freimuth, CRDA’s executive director, said the group will give a recommendation to the city by Nov. 30. Hartford administrators have final say over which developer is chosen.
City leaders, who recently contemplated bankruptcy, have said they do not have money for the redevelopment. But CRDA officials haven’t ruled out a contribution.
Freimuth said this week that any financial backing from the state would likely be part of a wider effort to improve Colt Park. The funding would cover not only Dillon’s upgrades, but also maintenance throughout Colt and new programs for children and young adults at the park.
“If we go in to make some upgrades at Dillon, we’re going to go into it with other components in mind,” he said. “Colt Park could use some help.”
This is not the first attempt by local officials to redevelop Dillon Stadium. 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. Prior to that, Clynch and his company–Civic Mind–were selected by the city in 2013 to renovate the stadium, but that effort ended a year later.
Top Rendering courtesy Hartford Sports Group; additional rendering courtesy Aaron Sarwar.