Under a recommendation made Thursday, Hartford could pursue a Dillon Stadium renovation plan that would lead to a Hartford USL team.
After mulling over three concepts that were submitted in response to a request for proposals (RFP), the Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA) opted to back a pitch from the Hartford Sports Group. Led by local businessman Bruce Mandell, the Hartford Sports Group’s includes calls for a request of public funds to help cover a renovation to Dillon Stadium. From there, the group would establish a Hartford USL club.
In order to bring down the originally estimated cost, Mandell has lowered the scope of the initial renovation plan. Ultimately, officials from the CRDA believed that it was the strongest of the three bids on the table. More from The Hartford Courant:
Mandell, who owns a direct marketing firm, had asked for a $10.7 million public subsidy to overhaul the stadium. He said Hartford Sports Group would spend $7.5 million to $10 million of its own money to attract a professional team, backed by the United Soccer league.
Mandell had proposed a 6,000-seat arena with new locker rooms, restrooms, press box and concession stands, as well as refurbished bleachers and artificial turf.
After inquiries from CRDA, Mandell reduced the scope of the upgrades, dropping the cost estimate to $6.7 million. But his new plan also eliminated the artificial turf, which sparked concerns among state officials, who worried about the upkeep of a grass field.
Still, CRDA Executive Director Michael Freimuth said at a meeting Thursday that Mandell’s proposal was the strongest offering.
Hartford has not set a timeline for when it intends to make its decision regarding Dillon Stadium. It has previously been indicated that the city is not in a position to allocate funds to the renovation, but the use of state money has been floated as a possible option.
This is not the first time a renovation of Dillon Stadium, a venue constructed under the auspices of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, has been discussed. 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.