The three bidders vying to win the Dillon Stadium project spoke at a hearing Wednesday night at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. Members of the public got a chance to speak as well.
“The Agents of Hale” are supporters of the current professional soccer team, Hartford City FC. In usual fashion, the group came in to a quiet hotel conference room beating drums and belting out melodic chants.
“We’ve put blood, sweat, and tears [into it],” said vice president Micah Kerr. “We’ve traveled for watching games, and we don’t want to give that up.”
He supports the bid by Hartford City FC owner Aaron Sarwar because it is privately funded by the Sarwar family. They’ve pledged $400,000 of their own money to renovate Dillon.
Kerr is not convinced that a competing bid from Bruce Mandell’s Hartford Sports Group is the way to go. That’s because its “public-private” partnership bid asks for $10 million in public money to rebuild the stadium.
“They’re asking for a city and a state to pay for every cent of stadium development at a time where it truly cannot afford it,” Kerr said. “I think that the grassroots way is something that Hartford should probably try for a while.”
Mandell’s plan involves a United Soccer League team that would play 17 regular season home games at Dillon. His group would invest $7-10 million into operating the team. He’d also pay $125,000 in rent to the city each year. The USL is currently second highest soccer league in the United States -- just below Major League Soccer.
Alyssa Peterson, a resident from Hartford’s South End, doesn’t have a dog in the fight, but she said she was most impressed with Mandell’s call for more money to be put into the stadium.
“That’s the most important thing—getting this stadium fixed for Hartford use,” Peterson said. “I think they are the vehicle to do it.”
Peterson has a different reason to be wary. She did not like how things went with the Hartford Stadium Authority and Dunkin’ Donuts Park.
“We had so much negativity around the way the stadium authority was financed,” Peterson said. “If you use the statutes right and you do true revenue bonds, that’s the way to go.”
Civic Mind Studios founder TJ Clynch also presented his bid. It calls for a rebuild in phases based on the needs of the community and multiple stadium tenants—not just one. Phase one includes a $1.5 million private investment. Clynch said if he were to go further, he’d need $5 million more.
The city could receive a recommendation by the Capitol Region Development Authority on the Dillon Stadium revamp by Thanksgiving.