November 13, 2018

Hartford Athletic owners exploring lacrosse, rugby pro teams

Photo | Bill Morgan
Photo | Bill Morgan
HSG Partners Bruce Mandell (center), Joseph Calafiore Jr. (left), and Scott Schooley (right) are looking into bringing professional rugby and lacrosse teams to Dillon Stadium.
PHOTO | CONTRIBUTED
A rendering of Dillon Stadium following renovations.

The owners of the Hartford Athletic soccer club are exploring opportunities to bring professional rugby and lacrosse to historic Dillon Stadium.

Bruce Mandell, the CEO and chairman of Hartford Sports Group (HSG), says the investor group, including co-partners Joseph Calafiore Jr. and Scott Schooley, has spent additional money to upgrade its artificial, organic turf field at Dillon Stadium in hopes it will someday accommodate both professional rugby and lacrosse.

HSG is in the beginning stages of pursuing the new teams, drawing inquiries from several leagues, Mandell said. He did not elaborate on which leagues were under consideration.

Their pursuit of another team is multi-faceted, but it's mainly driven by making better use of soon-to-be renovated Dillon Stadium, which is being upgraded through a $10 million state Bond Commission commitment. The renovations will include a turf field and other improvements to nearby Colt Park.

HSG is also investing at least $10 million in the Hartford Athletic, the newest member of the expanded Division II United Soccer League (USL).

"Part of our concept as Hartford Athletic is really broader than just soccer," Mandell told Hartford Business Journal on Monday. "We will definitely be having rugby and lacrosse at the stadium. It's just a matter of when and what type of product we are going to bring."

The Dillon Stadium overhaul suffered a setback in September when construction crews found unexpected issues at the abandoned plot overlooked by the Sport and Medical Sciences Academy.

The Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA), the agency overseeing the stadium for at least five years, said project construction was hindered by an outdated concrete bleacher foundation and an uneven field.

CRDA has mitigated several problems, and reduced the stadium's planned capacity from 6,000 seats to 5,000.

As of Monday, Mandell said the project remains on budget and is on pace to host the Athletic's first home games in mid May. The Athletic will begin the 2019 season on the road until Dillon Stadium is completed.

USL is expected to release next year's 30-game schedule in the coming weeks. Select Athletic games will air on the league's media partner, ESPN, and all games will be broadcast on the subscription service ESPN+ and online streaming service ESPN3.

Lacrosse and rugby in CT

A Hartford-based lacrosse team would follow the New England Black Wolves as Connecticut's second professional lacrosse team.

The Black Wolves are part of the indoor National Lacrosse League (NLL) and play home games at the Mohegan Sun Arena in the Uncasville section of Montville. The team is partially owned by the Mohegan Tribe and Brad Brewster.

Originally the Philadelphia Wings from 1986 to 2014, the team relocated to Mohegan Sun in 2014. NLL has seven teams in the U.S. and four in Canada.

Meantime, the state is without a professional rugby team.

The Connecticut Wildcats, based in South Norwalk, joined the amateur American National Rugby League in 2003 and folded after its first year participating in the USA Rugby League in 2015. The league was not considered professional.

Read more

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