After considerable anticipation, Hartford Athletic made the most of its debut at the newly renovated Dillon Stadium on Saturday.
Backed by Bruce Mandell’s Hartford Sports Group, Athletic began play this season in Division II USL Championship as an expansion team. A renovated Dillon Stadium has been at the center of the club’s facility plans, with the $14 million project set to bring new life to a historic venue that had been in a state of decline.
Delays to the completion of the project forced Athletic to move initial home matches to UConn’s Rentschler Field, but the club arrived at Dillon Stadium in fashion on Saturday, pulling off a 2-1 victory over Indy Eleven in front of a reported sellout crowd of 5,500. While some work remains around Dillon Stadium to fully complete its overhaul, Athletic’s debut is prompting optimism about the futures of both the club and its newly modernized facility. More from the Hartford Courant:
The field and the facility look wonderful. Is there work to be done? Absolutely. The scoreboard is temporary. The lights won’t be finished until next month. Sections of the concourse need to be paved. Grass needs to be laid down in some areas. The building at the main entrance has a water issue that needs to be addressed, meaning the main restrooms were not yet ready for use.
All of this can be addressed and will be soon. The Athletic would have nothing to work with or build on, though, without the vibe that is organic and real. People showed up and this minor-league operation felt big time. It felt like an important addition to our city, like a worthy and dependable partner to all else that was going on.
“I love the idea that it’s in the South End of Hartford,” Mandell said, “because it’s in the city but it’s in a neighborhood. You’re not plopped in the middle of cement.”
Dillon Stadium was originally built in 1935 under the auspices of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. It past includes a variety of uses, including sporting events and concerts for major acts such as the Rolling Stones, The Grateful Dead, Kiss, and more.
Dillon Stadium rendering courtesy Hartford Athletic.
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