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.
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Many times, football stadiums can underachieve in their food selection, however Rentschler Field delivered with a nice array of options. There is one concourse that circles the stadium and all of the usuals are available (hot dogs, hamburgers, pretzels, nachos, etc.). In addition, some permanent and specialty stands featured turkey wraps, and if you didn't tailgate beforehand, these are perfect for a Noon game. Barbequed Pork, Kielbasa and Chili Chowder Soup are also available.
No food item really stood out as a must have, but the variety is pretty good. Being that this is not an on-campus stadium, alcohol is available. If pre-game brews weren't enough, Bud and Coors products are available inside.
The Rentschler Field experience is a decent one, though certainly not on par with the major programs in BCS conferences. Crowds fill up the place nicely for each game making it an enjoyable place to watch football. It is a very intimate stadium as it is enclosed with only 40,000 seats and the second level of seating is not much higher than the first. This not only allows for great sightlines, but also increases the noise factor.
It's never deafening in here, but you get a decent pop during big plays. The band and mascot entertain the crowd and special cheers include the spelling of "U-C-O-N-N" after scores.
Besides a Cabela's Retail Store and a few nearby shopping centers, there isn't much to write home about for the neighborhood and nearby bars/restaurants. Tailgating would likely be the best option and the scene is solid with many fans enjoying the typical tailgate festivities.
With the stadium located about 20 miles from campus, there are many students, but they are well outnumbered by alumni, adults and family which makes for a more tempered atmosphere. The city of East Hartford does not offer much entertainment-wise, but just across the river is downtown Hartford.
Fans have supported the team really well and games are always approaching or at capacity. They are a little slow to arrive and early to depart though as I would say it was at about 70% capacity when the ball was kicked off during my visit (announced attendance was around 91% of full capacity).
There didn't seem to be a roaring, diehard approach to the game, but fans responded well at key times. Behind the end zone, the student section filled up nicely and led in any cheers. Besides the "U-C-O-N-N" cheer mentioned above, they also chanted "Stick it in, Stick it in, Stick it in" after each play when the Huskies made it inside the opponents' 20 yard line. They also have the common "First Down" yell in unison here as well.
The marching band was entertaining and blasted the Husky Fight Song. For a program at the highest level of college football for only 10 years, the atmosphere and fans are great, with a surprising amount of traditions and chants.
Being that it is a former airfield, Rentschler Field has a giant field to have everybody park in. It's not exactly a pleasant drive as you go over a lot of humps, bumps and big rocks, but all cars essentially are filtered into the lots surrounding the stadium.
Red lots are general parking and these are well marked whether you arrive from Route 2 (via I-91) or I-84. From the general parking area the walk is about 8-15 minutes depending on when you arrive. In and out traffic seemed like it would be an issue, but it really was not too bad. Restrooms were decent and easily accessible.
Prices may seem a bit expensive as when you're in here, you 'feel' prices should be a bit lower, but it's likely the conference affiliation that drives them up a bit. Tickets range from $40 to $60 and it really does not matter where you sit with such great sight lines, so the $40 seats may be more optimal.
General parking in the Rentschler Field lots cost $12 and food inside the stadium was just slightly above normal ($4 for a hot dog, $6 for a burger, $4 for a coke and $7 for 16oz beer). Overall it is worth seeing a UConn football game.
Rentschler Field does a nice job of adding touches to make this feel like home, instead of just a new, soul-less facility. In the concourse, is the Connecticut High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame, which is a long name for a state sports hall of fame. The honors are for the state's top athletes, coaches and contributors. Spend some time in this great section and read the plaques as you may be surprised at some of the names and what they did while living in the Nutmeg State.
Meanwhile artist renditions of Rentschler Field history adorn the walls facing the field. These plaques come with a picture and quote not of the stadium, but of the airfield and the famous people that used it. Lastly, it was nice to see the Huskies proudly display their bowl appearances in the form of banners on their press box.
Follow all of Sean's journeys at Stadium & Arena Visits.
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.
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