Hartford is joining the USL next year, as expansion club Hartford Athletic will begin play at a renovated Dillon Stadium in 2019.
Hartford Athletic is backed by the Hartford Sports Group, which is led by local businessman Bruce Mandell. The club will debut next spring, and is set to play its home matches at a renovated Dillon Stadium once that project is complete. The state bond commission has already approved $10 million in borrowing to fund some major work to the facility, including new seating, upgraded facilities, and a new turf.
Plans for the team were announced on Wednesday.
“After years of planning and hard work, we are excited to officially announce that professional soccer is coming to Hartford and Dillon Stadium will be brought back to life,” said Mandell. “We’re proud of where we’re from and can’t wait to build a Club that will energize our community and bring people together. As an organization, we’re dedicated to winning on and off the field, and we have all the ingredients for success that we’ve seen in so many other soccer cities. Let’s dream big together and use the world’s game to continue the momentum in Hartford.”
This marks the latest announcement for the 2019 USL lineup, as Hartford is the sixth club to join as an expansion team for next year. New Mexico (to play at Albuquerque’s Isotopes Park in 2019), Birmingham, Austin, El Paso, and Memphis have all announced 2019 expansion teams, though it is not certain whether Austin will indeed be fielding a USL team given the city’s ongoing pursuit of Columbus Crew SC (MLS). Hartford’s addition puts the 2019 USL slate at 37 teams; there are 33 this season, but FC Cincinnati was awarded a 2019 MLS team and Toronto FC II will drop down to the new USL Division III circuit.
“Hartford makes the sixth addition to the USL for 2019 and strengthens the league’s presence in the Northeast with a thriving city that boasts a rich soccer history,” said USL CEO Alec Papadakis. “The league continues to reach new heights through record attendance and additional expansion into exciting new markets. Hartford will join Austin, Memphis, El Paso, New Mexico and Birmingham as new clubs in 2019. We are thrilled to welcome Bruce, Scott and Joe to our ownership group and are excited for their vision of professional soccer in Hartford as they debut in their new home Dillon Stadium.”
Dillon Stadium is a venue that was originally constructed under the auspices of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, but its condition has fallen on hard times in recent years. The renovation will bring the facility to USL standards, and local and state officials believe that it will bring new life to the venerable facility.
“Dillon Stadium is a historic and beloved community asset, and I’m thrilled that we have the chance to bring Dillon back to life for our community – and as the home of professional soccer and Hartford Athletic. The United Soccer League is a fast-growing, exciting league, and I am looking forward to seeing Hartford Athletic take the field in our Capital City,” said Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin. “Along with the incredibly successful restoration of the Colt Armory complex for both commercial and residential use, the Hooker Brewery tasting room, the coming upgrades to Colt Park, and of course the designation of the Colstville National Historic Park, a revitalized Dillon Stadium brings us one step closer to the reinvention of this historic neighborhood. I want to thank the Hartford Sports Group for their commitment to and passion for this project, and I also want to thank the Governor, the legislature, our Hartford delegation, and the Capital Region Development Authority for their investment in Dillon. Without their strong partnership and support, we could not make this happen.”
“Hartford is home to some of the greatest sports fans in the nation, and the announcement that there will be a new, professional team based in the Capital City is wonderful news,” Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy said. “I am proud that the state’s $10 million investment will help transform the aging Dillon Stadium into the thriving home to this new franchise – and its passionate fan base. This, combined with robust economic development and revitalization efforts to an area of the city that had too long been neglected, represents real progress not just for Coltsville, but for the entire Hartford region.”
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