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October 26, 2023

CRDA seeks $12M from state to chip away at larger Pratt & Whitney Stadium repairs 

Photo | Flickr/Doug Kerr Rentschler Field.

The Capital Region Development Authority plans to tap $12 million through the state Bond Commission in December to begin repairs to the roughly 20-year-old Pratt & Whitney Stadium in East Hartford.

CRDA officials hope to engage a design team and construction manager in the coming months, and then launch next spring the first in a series of planned repairs and upgrades.

In a meeting Thursday afternoon, CRDA board member Andy F. Bessette, who is executive vice president and chief administrative officer of insurer Travelers Cos., said the agency would tap $12 million allocated in the governor’s budget in December, and then another $12 million for a second round of work in fiscal 2025.

Bessette said these are expected to be the first in a series of five funding installments that will ultimately yield about $60 million worth of upgrades, which were recommended by stadium design consultant Populous in 2022.

The first $12 million is expected to cover roof replacements for the tower section of the stadium and the concession stand, as well as structural repairs and IT and security improvements, Bessette said.

Populous’ report said the 38,000-seat stadium requires $63.3 million in repairs and upgrades.

“… As the stadium approaches its third decade of operation, its ability to deliver a positive guest experience is crucial for it to remain relevant both locally and nationally,” reads a portion of the 2022 report. “It is important to keep the facility in a first-class condition and well maintained for a great experience for fans, staff, and the University of Connecticut.”

Pratt & Whitney Stadium is home to the UConn Huskies football team, but has also hosted soccer, rugby and lacrosse events, in addition to weddings and concerts for major performers, such as The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen and The Police.

The venue has seen more than 1 million visitors at “nearly 200 major events and hundreds of smaller scale” events since opening in 2003, according to a CRDA summary delivered last year.

The stadium was built on a 75-acre property donated by United Technologies in a $92 million state-funded project that began in November 2000, and wrapped up in August 2003. It was originally named Rentschler Field, after Pratt & Whitney founder Frederick Rentschler. The name was changed to Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field in 2015.

In its report, Populous detailed the need for critical capital investments, with special focus on:

  • A replacement of the roof in the Tower Building and roof repairs for outbuildings.
  • Technology upgrades to make the building better suited for UConn events, producers and broadcasters, as well as safer, more efficient and more welcoming to visitors.
  • Rehabilitation of elevators, concourse areas, walkways, stairwells and various mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.
  • Replacement of time-worn irrigation and drainage systems on the playing field and overall site.

Populous found the roof in the tower building to be in “very poor” condition, allowing for water intrusion and resulting damage. Technology was found lacking, resulting in reduced capabilities for sound and video production, as well as broadcasting ability. 

Eighteen of 35 security cameras in the stadium were not functioning properly, and cameras in the parking lot do not have reliable wireless connections.

Parking lots are cracked, as is concrete and mortar in the stadium. There is rust on exterior stairs and railings. The ability to evacuate the stadium is not up to modern standards. Air handling and heating systems are approaching the end of their useful lives, among a laundry list of issues.

The Populous report said repairs could be phased in over several state biennial budget cycles, which is the approach being pursued by CRDA.

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