The owner of Hartford Athletic, the new soccer team scheduled to play at a renovated Dillon Stadium this spring, and the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving will contribute as much as $2.7 million to cover cost overruns at the historic stadium in Colt Park.
The Capital Region Development Authority, the agency overseeing a $10 million rehabilitation of the facility, has said it is struggling to stay within its state-funded budget. Workers at the site discovered that the concrete bases anchoring the massive bleachers were outdated and wouldn’t fit many modern seating systems. They also found that the stadium was a foot higher on one side than the other.
CRDA has considered cutting back seating and forgoing a new scoreboard, along with other embellishments, to manage the problems. The project is now expected to exceed $13 million.
Bruce Mandell, who owns the professional team that is set to play at Dillon, said he will pay up to $1.5 million to help cover cost overruns. The money won’t buy anything flashy – it is meant to keep the basic plans intact, he said.He has also applied for a forgivable, $800,000 loan from the state Department of Economic and Community Development to fund construction expenses. The money is contingent on Mandell creating dozens of jobs.
The Hartford Foundation is also putting in $1.2 million to pay for the turf field, along with $500,000 for improvements to Colt Park.
CRDA had weighed trimming the seating capacity to 5,000, down from 6,000 as originally planned. Mandell said that with the extra money, the capacity will now likely be 5,500.
“It was really important that we get a stadium that the city, the state and our league would be proud of,” he said. “If the experience isn’t delivered in a really great way then the project has a drag on it, and we do not want to have a drag on this project.”
The city owns the stadium, and CRDA would manage it for at least five years under an agreement hammered out last spring. Mandell’s company, Hartford Sports Group, is the primary tenant, though a minimum of 131 days per year have been set aside for community use. Hartford Sports Group would pay $300,000 annually to cover overhead expenses, and another $25,000 that would go into a fund supporting neighborhood events.
The renovations at Dillon, which include new bleachers, turf field, press box, lighting and fencing, were supposed to be complete in April, but officials now say the issues at the site could delay the opening until May. Hartford Athletic’s season will begin on the road in March, and Mandell said he hopes the team will play its first home game at Dillon in early May.
Hartford Sports Group has made arrangements for the team, which is backed by the United Soccer League, to play at Rentschler Field in East Hartford should Dillon Stadium not be ready in time.Jay Williams, president of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, said his organization wants to devote funds to projects that have a community impact. The new field at Dillon may be used by youth athletic leagues and for cultural events.
The Hartford Foundation announced this week that it has created a subsidiary to help fund key development opportunities in the region. The contribution to Dillon is the first in that effort. Williams said other projects may include affordable housing or businesses that spur entrepreneurship for underserved residents. The Hartford Foundation has so far set aside $4 million for the endeavor.
The $500,000 for Colt Park will cover drainage, new lighting and improvements to baseball fields.
Plans for an updated Dillon Stadium started in earnest last year when CRDA launched the latest request for development proposals. Two earlier attempts to upgrade the facility collapsed.
In November, CRDA chose Hartford Sports Group to be its main tenant. The city council signed off on a deal with the sports group, and the state committed to borrow $10 million to rebuild the stadium.
Millions Of Connecticut Trees Have Been Killed Or Damaged In Recent Years. Taking Them Down Is Expensive.
Gregory B. Hladky
Cutting down or trimming trees that present potential threats to power lines is expected to cost the state’s largest utility $80.4 million this year — an increase of 26 percent over just four years ago.
“I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel at this time,” Alan Carey, head of Eversource’s tree and vegetation management for Connecticut, said. “We’re noticing that this year a lot of trees you wouldn’t expect to fail are failing.”
Infestations of gypsy moths, emerald ash borers and other pests like the Hemlock woolly adelgid have killed or damaged millions of trees across Connecticut in recent years. State forestry experts say big storms and the two-year-long drought that finally ended in 2017 put additional stress on many trees that were already nearing the end of their life spans. Carey said repeated rains this summer and fall have also contributed to a greater risk of trees falling on power lines. All that water allowed trees to produce more and more leaves, dramatically increasing the weight of their foliage. At the same time, the soggy ground is making it easier for root systems to loosen and be pulled out by the weight of the canopy, according to Carey.