The University of Connecticut has played football since 1896, holding their home games at Memorial Stadium on the Storrs campus from 1953 to 2002. As a member of Division I-A, the 16,200-seat facility was adequate for their needs. Beginning in 2002, the Huskies moved up to college football’s top division, the FBS, and into a new state of the art off-campus facility the following season. UConn has quickly enjoyed success since their move into the FBS, playing in 5 bowl games and winning 2 conference championships in the Big East. The Huskies currently play in the American Athletic Conference, the new configuration of the Big East football conference.
Rentschler Field, located 21 miles west of the University of Connecticut campus, is located in East Hartford, Connecticut. The stadium was built on the site of a commercial airfield, also named Rentschler Field. The land where the stadium stands was donated to the state of Connecticut in 1999, and is rented out to the university for events. The stadium has also served as the home of the Hartford Colonials of the United Football League (UFL), and as host to several US national soccer team friendlies.
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As is the case with many new stadiums, a great deal of thought and effort was put into the concessions at Rentschler Field. There are 17 permanent concession stands circling the outer edge of the concourse. Each stand features different menu items, so search around a little before choosing. All the stadium basics can be found here, including hot dogs, burgers, chicken tenders, grilled chicken sandwiches, and flatbread pizza. Fans looking for healthier alternatives can find fresh salads, wraps, and soups at the Chef's Express stand. If southwestern style fare is your thing, head over to Tamales for tacos, quesadillas, burritos, and of course, tamales. Head on over to The Q Barbeque for ribs, chicken, and pulled pork sandwiches.
In addition, several food trucks are lined up along the northeast end zone which provide products from some of Hartford's local favorites. Texas Roadhouse also operates a concession stand in the end zone here. Variety of choice is certainly not an issue at Rentschler Field.
Rentschler Field's location off-campus means that alcohol can be served here. Your usual Budweiser and Bud Light can be found here, as well as more upscale beers such as Sam Adams, and offerings by local brewery Burnside Brewing Company.
The parking lots at Rentschler Field open a full four hours before kickoff, which gives many of the Husky faithful ample time to set up their tailgating gear. One thing that is evident as you wander through the many lots surrounding the stadium is that Hartford is the dividing line between New York and Boston. Here you will see equal amounts of Patriots/Red Sox and Jets/Yankees gear. These rivalries are all put aside in support of the Huskies several Saturdays in the fall.
The tailgating scene is a pleasant one, as there is just enough of a big-time college football feel here without the accompanying pressure of the bigger conferences. The fact that there is nothing to do in the immediate vicinity of the stadium makes fans focus their energy even more on the pregame tailgating, making for a fun and lively atmosphere.
During the game you get the standard college football experience, with lots of loud music and exhortations from the video scoreboard to cheer and make noise. The Husky band makes its presence known throughout the game, and there is solid representation from the student body. The crowd at Rentschler Field isn't one of the most rowdy you will ever find, but they don't sit on their hands, either. Special cheers include the spelling of "U-C-O-N-N" after Husky scores. This stadium can get really loud when the Huskies are rolling in a big game. The team's recent struggles have had an effect on the crowd's involvement in recent times.
There really isn't a whole lot in the immediate vicinity of Rentschler Field to write home about. There is a Cabela's Retail Store nearby for anyone looking for some hunting or fishing gear while at the game, but little else. The stadium is surrounded by parking lots, which makes for a nice tailgating scene, but Rentschler Field is hardly a destination area on its own.
Aside from a shopping center further down Silver Lane and a Margarita's restaurant just off I-84, there isn't much to do in East Hartford. Fans looking for a place to eat before or after the game will have to jump in their cars and head over the river into Hartford.
Rentshler Field's biggest drawback is it location, about a half hour's drive from the Storrs campus. Despite this distance, there is a solid representation from the student body, which fills up the southwest end zone even when the weather is less than perfect.
Another drawback often mentioned when discussing Rentschler Field is its small(ish) size. UConn fans regularly fill the 40,000 seat stadium to 85% capacity, and there have been seasons of over 90% capacity recently. Again, the team's recent struggles have affected attendance. It would seem that Rentschler Field is just about the right size for this program. Where it becomes a problem is when a big name school comes to town. For a recent game with Michigan in 2013, the school installed 2,500 temporary seats in the end zone to accommodate the larger crowd. The small footprint of Rentschler makes it difficult for UConn to attract marquee games.
During the game the fans, while not deafening with their cheers, are vocal during the big moments of the game. The student sections lead the cheers with the aforementioned "U-C-O-N-N" cheer, as well as "Stick it in, stick it in, stick it in" when the Huskies enter the red zone. There is also the obligatory "First Down" cheer throughout the game. The marching band adds to the overall experience with their constant play.
Rentschler Field is very easy to get to, located just off Interstate 84 across the river from downtown Hartford. The most direct route is to take exit 58 (Roberts St.), and follow the signs to Rentschler Field. You can't miss it once you get off the highway. In an effort to keep traffic moving on game day, lanes are marked with cones to funnel cars to the many lots surrounding the stadium. Traffic seems to move pretty smoothly for the most part, but be sure to arrive early, as long time visitors to Rentschler stake out the prime spots early. Many people told me about nightmarish traffic on weeknight games, as football traffic and rush hour combine, but on a Saturday afternoon, the local police and stadium staff have the routine down.
The many open grassy fields that surround Rentschler Field serve as parking lots on game day. Regulars stake out the prime spots closest to the stadium, and many of the lots are quite some distance from the field. On the plus side, if you park in the distant lots, you get to experience the entire tailgating scene as you venture closer to the game.
Once inside the stadium, you will notice a wide, open concourse that completely circles the field. Concession stands and bathrooms line the outer edge of the concourse, while several portable carts are located on the inner edge. The concourses are more than wide enough to handle traffic throughout the game, although it can get crowded at halftime. Likewise, there are more than enough bathrooms around the stadium to handle the crowd.
Rentschler Field is made up of two levels of seating, with the concourse located at the top of the lower level. Seating in both levels is made up primarily of metal bleachers without backs, with some individual blue seating with chair backs on both levels around midfield. The slope of the field is gradual, and all seats are angled towards the 50 yard line, which makes for excellent sightlines.
Tickets for UConn football games range from $60-$75 for individual seats and from $33-$38 for bleacher seating. With the great sightlines from virtually all the seats at Rentschler Field, the cheaper seats may be a better option.
Parking in the lots surrounding the stadium will cost you $15. Food prices are a bit on the high side, but not totally out of line with similar venues in the area. Overall, prices feel like they are a little bit higher than they should be, but considering that this is one of only three FBS teams in all of New England, it's not a bad deal. If you save a few dollars by carpooling to the game and tailgating outside the stadium, UConn football is very affordable.
The Connecticut High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame is located at Rentschler Field, which honors the state's top athletes, coaches, and contributors. If you take a few minutes to look at some of the honorees, you may be surprised at the names you will find here.
It's hard not to be reminded that UConn is, first and foremost, a basketball school. Posters and schedules are handed out as you enter Rentschler Field, along with a nice program.
A final extra point is awarded for the dedication of the UConn student body and fanbase. Despite a day with weather dipping into the 30's with freezing rain and high winds during my most recent visit, Rentschler Field was filled to at least 75% capacity, and the student section was filled to the brim. For so many students to make the trek to Hartford from Storrs was impressive.
As UConn enters its second decade at the top level of collegiate football, its status continues to evolve. Presently, it competes at a level just a little below their more established brethren as the program continues to find its niche. This is no small feat at a basketball powerhouse such as UConn. Likewise, the gameday experience at Rentschler Field is going through similar growing pains. This is a fine facility with good support and a decent overall atmosphere. Still, it's not totally where it needs to be yet. In New England, where there are only three FBS teams in the entire six-state region, Rentschler Field is as close to the big time as you are going to get. Give Rentschler Field a look, you'll be glad you did.
The University of Connecticut's football program has a long history dating back to 1897, but the sport did not reach the big time until 2000. That is when UConn moved up to the Division I-A level (now known as FBS) and after starting as an independent, they became members of the Big East.
A major part of the move was the building of beautiful Rentschler Field, which opened in 2003. Instead of putting it on-campus in rural Storrs, the stadium was built about 20 miles to the West in East Hartford, just outside the State Capitol.
What's interesting about the venue is that it's built on an old airfield with the same name as the old Pratt & Whitney space closed in 1999 and the land was donated for the stadium. Rentschler is a really nice facility that has turned into a terrific home for the Huskies and their fans, as they continue to build on their remarkable early success in the Big East.
One of the quickest ways to kill a the college football atmosphere is to play at a stadium off-campus which severely limits the student crowd. This wasn't too much of a problem at Rentschler Field, but all of the students were drunk and a bit out of control. In fact, despite a very large number of security guards, they managed to reportedly break the arm of the Iowa State mascot the night I was there among other fights.
The stadium is ok, but not flashy in any way. Beer was available for a hefty price.
Getting into the parking area was real easy, one of the best ever. They even had emergency lanes in place so when I missed my lot they were able to cycle me back around to the media lot even though my parking pass was still at will call.
I enjoyed my visit, and you can read more about it and my press box experience sitting beside the Big East PR director as the Pitt/Syracuse to the ACC news was breaking at my website http://www.collegiatestadiums.com
Overall a good review by the original Stadium Journey reviewer.
I live in Westchester County so this is one of the closer trips for me (along with RU and Army) but wouldnt consider it too "high" on the list for those making destination trips east.
I went to three games at The Rent this season (Towson, Louisville & Rutgers). After the season opening loss to Towson, a lot of optimism was gone and it showed in attendance. With that said, the fans who did show up were passionate and loud most of the time.
Parking is $15 and most spots are only a 15 min walk from the Stadium so that's a major perk. There arent too many places around the stadium to visit so the action is mostly contained to the giant parking lot.
Never attended the old venue, but UConn's new football stadium certainly has a modern look and feel. The tailgating is great, it is a lot of fun and has fans out in force hours before game time. Tickets are a little on the high side for the size of school, which may be due to the local cost of living. I say this about a lot of stadiums up north, but beware the night games b/c it will be cold.
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