Hartford’s new pro soccer team kicks off its home games in about two months. But there’s been a change of plans because of construction delays at Dillon Stadium.
The opening of Dillon Stadium is running about two months behind. Fans are disappointed but understanding the project is taking longer to finish.
“It’s great. To have the beautiful game in your backyard, you know, it’s really something else,” said Hartford resident Chris Gibbs.
Gibbs and other fans are excited for pro soccer to arrive here, even if Dillon Stadium won’t be ready for the Hartford Athletic’s home opener.
“It’s not the first time in Hartford we’ve had to wait for sports. But it’s live ball. And once everything starts kicking off once we’re in Hartford nobody is really going to remember,” Gibbs said.
Monday the team announced it was resorting to a backup plan. It will play at Rentschler Field in East Hartford starting May 4.
“I am fired up to rock the Rent. It’s something that we’ve been planning as a possibility since day one,” explained Bruce Mandell, Hartford Athletic chairman & CEO
The renovation of Dillon – which is city-owned - is being handled by the Capital Region Development Authority or CRDA.
In a statement, its executive director blames the slowdown on unexpected problems including, “a field that had settled nearly a foot below grade on one end, poor drainage throughout the site, the need for special foundations below the new stands, and environmental unknowns.”
That means the $10 million project needed extra money. Roughly $3 million was covered by the team, CRDA and a grant from the Hartford Foundation. Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin (D) says he was anticipating a delay and looks forward to the future potential.
“To have Dillon Stadium as a center of energy and activity down next to the historic Colt complex and that neighborhood that is growing rapidly it's a really exciting thing for the city,” Bronin said.
Now the goal is for the Hartford Athletic to play matches here starting in mid-June. The team said it’s already sold more than 1,000 season tickets.