September 24, 2018

Dillon Stadium overhaul experiencing 'unexpected surprises'

PHOTO | Joe Cooper
PHOTO | Joe Cooper
Hartford's Dillion Stadium before construction crews broke ground on a $10 million renovation project in August.
PHOTO | CONTRIBUTED
A rendering of Dillon Stadium following renovations.

While the Hartford Athletic is still expected to kick off its inaugural season in the Capital City in April, the overseers renovating Dillon Stadium are uncovering several infrastructure issues at the 83-year-old stadium.

Construction crews have found "unexpected surprises" throughout the stadium, including an outdated concrete bleacher foundation and the field being one foot higher from one end, according to Michael Freimuth, executive director of the Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA), the agency overseeing the $10 million renovations.

CRDA, Freimuth says, has made progress responding to the antiquated foundation, which is fixed in "very bad" soils at the site. Crews have poured spread footings almost 11 feet deep to counter the supporting system problems with the buildings and bleachers, he said.

To avoid project cost overruns, Freimuth said CRDA is considering a variety of changes to stay under budget, including reducing the stadium's capacity from 6,000 to 5,000 seats.

The seat reduction would allow CRDA to cut the number of restrooms and concessions needed to accommodate a capacity crowd at the historic stadium situated in Colt Park.

CRDA has also considered retaining the stadium's old scoreboard instead of buying new, he said.

Despite the project's barriers thus far, Freimuth said the stadium remains on target to open in mid-to-late April if the winter weather is not too harsh. Crews broke ground at the stadium in August.

The Athletic will play 30 games in Hartford next year, with several airing on the United Soccer League's (USL) media partner, ESPN. Its schedule is expected to be released in the coming weeks.

In February, the state Bond Commission approved $10 million for renovating the stadium, which has hosted numerous high school football and pro soccer games and rock concerts since it was built in 1935.

As part of the renovations, the field will be moved east toward Huyshope Avenue to create additional room for seats closer to the artificial turf field.

The Athletic received more than 1,000 season ticket commitments by the time it was named as the USL's newest team in July.

Owned by the Hartford Sports Group (HSG) -- led by CEO and Chairman Bruce Mandell, and co-partners Joseph Calafiore Jr. and Scott Schooley -- the team is joining the USL, a Division II pro soccer league, with five other expansion teams.

Read more

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