Professional baseball is back as the Rock Cats announced their move to Hartford, but soccer could be coming to the capital city as well.
The City of Hartford is making a play for a professional soccer team – most likely from the North American Soccer League.
According to public contract proposals, the team would play at Dillon Stadium in Hartford, which is located near Charter Oak Landing and the former Colt Building. Dillon formerly housed another NASL years ago and is currently home to high school sports.
Part of the plan is explained in a May 2014 request for proposal in which the City of Hartford says it’s seeking bids from companies interested in managing Dillon Stadium, with the goal of securing a team through the North American Soccer League.
The NASL is a 10-team pro league with teams in the US and Canada and wants to expand to 18 teams by 2018.
It’s welcome news for soccer fan Rob McNicholas, who coincidentally started a twitter page called “@NASLinHartford” six months ago.
“I think it could be huge, not only for fans of soccer just wanting a team, but also for the city. The more they can do to revitalize different neighborhoods and reuse resources that are already there, it’d be great,” Says McNicholas.
Dillon Stadium would need significant renovations to house a pro team – possibly up to $12 Million, according to sources with Fox CT Sports.
Mayor Pedro Segarra was asked about the finances today.
Reporter: “Can the city afford all this?… Down the street, Dillon Stadium, $12 million for soccer?”
Mayor: “Well you know, we have to invest money if we want to generate the economic development to provide people with jobs.”
Finances aside, there is a soccer fan-base in Connecticut according to Shawn Simao and Tom Lovekay, leaders with the “American Outlaws,” fans who support the US National Soccer Team, and say they’d also support a team in Hartford.
“It’s really big for the city and as for a soccer fan, it’s a dream come true,” says Simao.
Lovekay is Vice President of the American Outlaws’ Hartford Chapter.
“To hear that we could be supporting not only our national team that we love, but we could also be supporting a professional team for our city – it’s hard to contain the excitement really,” he says.
NASL spokesman, David D’Onofrio, wouldn’t confirm whether a team is definitely coming to Hartford, but did say “Hartford has a lot of tradition” and that “the league likes the Hartford market”.