Photo courtesy Anthony Santella / Hartford Athletic
HARTFORD, Conn. – Almost eight months after beginning the process of securing the rights to redevelop historic Dillon Stadium in Hartford’s Coltsville district, and three years after beginning the process overall, Wednesday morning marked a proud moment for the Hartford Sports Group and principals Bruce Mandell, Joe Calafiore and Scott Schooley as Hartford Athletic was officially unveiled as the newest member of the USL.
Set to begin play next spring at what is projected to be a 6,000-seat venue, the new club was welcomed by USL President Jake Edwards, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin and numerous local dignitaries and members of the soccer community as it officially unveiled its name and colors at the Boys & Girls Club, with the club taking what has been a familiar nickname for clubs elsewhere in the soccer world and bringing it to the professional ranks in the United States for the first time.
“We want this team to represent the capital city of our great state,” Mandell told the Hartford Courant’s Shawn McFarland. “We’re leading with Hartford as the core of our name. We want an authentic and unique soccer team name. Athletic is used around the world by soccer clubs, including Atletico Madrid. But no pro soccer team in the United States has used that name. We’re now the first.”
While Hartford Athletic’s name is now a unique one in American soccer, the colors on the other hand are those classically associated with the city with the blue, green and white evoking memories of the Hartford Whalers and the city’s professional baseball team the Yard Goats.
“That was probably the easiest decision we had,” Mandell told McFarland. “These are really Hartford’s colors now.”
USL President Jake Edwards welcomes Hartford Athletic to the league for the 2019 season. | Photo courtesy Anthony Santella / Hartford Athletic
The success of the Yard Goats, and the historic of soccer in both Hartford and the state of Connecticut as a whole, made the market one that was highly attractive to the USL, which supported HSG’s bid to redevelop Dillon Stadium. In welcoming the sixth new club for the 2019 season, Edwards pointed to the more than 1,000 commitments to purchasing season tickets prior to the club’s official launch as an indicator of how quickly the club will gain support.
“There’s a huge soccer following here,” Edwards told McFarland. “From the research we’ve done and the folks that we’ve spoken to, there’s a huge population that are desperate to have a team of their own. This far out, having 1,000 season tickets already in is a good indicator of what’s coming.
“It’s always been a market that supports the game from a viewership point of view and a participation point of view, so that was a big factor as we looked at Hartford.”
From a local level, the arrival of professional soccer will only continue the rejuvenation and growth of the city and the region as a whole.
“I think this is huge for the entire city of Hartford, I think it’s huge for the state of Connecticut,” Bronin told McFarland. “It’s obviously huge for the Coltsville area.
“Now you have this historic Dillon Stadium that’s going to be brought back to life, both as a community asset and as the home to a USL soccer team. It’s really significant, because you can see, if you look at the Yard Goats, the hunger and appetite for professional sports.”