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  • Will Halpern

Trinity Health Stadium - Hartford Athletic

Photo by Will Halpern, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.00

Trinity Health Stadium 250 Huyshope Ave Hartford, CT 06106

Year Opened: 1935 Capacity: 5,500


Soccer is Reborn in the Nutmeg State

Note: In March 2022, the venue name changed from Dillon Stadium to Trinity Health Stadium as part of a new rights agreement.

July 2018 provided welcome news to fans of the game in southern New England as Hartford Athletic announced they would be one of several new teams to enter the newly named USL Championship, or the second level of soccer in the U.S. behind MLS. Every soccer team needs a home and, after years of deliberation, a decision was made to completely re-tool Dillon Stadium, a stadium built in 1935 as a Federal Emergency Relief Administration venue just south of downtown.

Dillon Stadium hosted many football and soccer games as well as numerous concerts, such as the Grateful Dead, Beach Boys, and Rolling Stones. Recently however it has fallen into disrepair, and just a few months before the announcement of Hartford Athletic, a ten million dollar renovation of Dillon Stadium was approved, and the 5,500-seat stadium, though still not complete, is well on its way to being among the best in the USL.

Food & Beverage 5

Dillon Stadium, though a minor league venue, offers major league food. There are truly so many different varieties of food that anyone coming to a Hartford Athletic game will walk away satisfied. There is a concessions stand with hot dogs, nachos, and snacks, including a hot dog combo with potato chips and a bottled drink for $10. There is also a Chick-fil-A stand selling chicken sandwiches, as well as another stand serving pizza from Ranky’s Wooster Pizza Shop, a local pizzeria in the area. Ranky’s offers different types of pizza including the classics such as cheese and pepperoni, as well as mac and cheese, veggie, and buffalo chicken pizzas.

In addition to the above there are also local food trucks, with one serving Greek specialties such as a falafel or gyro wraps for $10 each, as well as sides such as hummus and pita for $7, and a steamed cheeseburger (a Connecticut specialty) truck from Ted’s Restaurant – a classic in the Hartford area for sixty years; a steamed hamburger will cost you $8, and a steamed cheeseburger $10. There are also other varieties of burgers, chicken tenders, and fries, and you can also find a Carvel Ice Cream truck, perfect for hot days like the day I was last there – a cup or cone will cost you $6, or a dollar more will get you a root beer float, or for two dollars more you can enjoy a hot fudge sundae. There is truly something for everyone at Dillon Stadium.

Pepsi is the bottled soft drink of choice, and there are also a variety of beer stands throughout the stadium. There is also a water filling station, which is a nice touch, for those who either bring a water bottle or buy water at one of the concessions stands.

If you’re going to a game at Dillon Stadium, a steamed cheeseburger is a must, but if cheeseburgers aren’t your thing, then the falafel wrap is also quite good. You can’t go wrong no matter what you decide to eat during a Hartford Athletic match.

Atmosphere 4

There are signs throughout the stadium that make it clear the renovations aren’t finished, but with the stadium set up as it is there is still plenty to like. The stadium has 5,500 seats spread out on two roughly even sides – one side has a mixture of chair back reserved seats while the other side is mainly bleacher seating with some VIP field seating, a canopied area behind one of the goals that shields fans from the elements; there is also a reserved section for the different supporter groups that come on game day. The scoreboard is very basic with just the team names and the game clock showing, and no video board, but that will change down the road.

A great PA announcer calls the goals, substitutions, and cards as in most soccer games, and with my most recent visit being the inaugural game at Dillon Stadium, the mayor of Hartford, the owner of the team, and others were there to pump up the crowd. There wasn’t a mascot or pep squad that I saw, but with the energy from the first game it was almost unneeded.

There is simply not a bad seat in the house at Dillon Stadium; sitting on either side will give you a great view of the field, though the seats on the near side will have a little more shade. The wind is fairly even on both sides, and tickets range from $15 to $20 depending on the game.

Neighborhood 3

Dillon Stadium is in the Sheldon-Charter Oak neighborhood just south of downtown, and is one of the anchors of Colt Park, a large outdoor park in Hartford. Just a short drive away lies downtown Hartford, which offers a great number of different restaurants, entertainment, and nightlife. Right next door to the stadium is the Thomas Hooker Brewery, which offers a great place to grab a pre or post-game drink or bite to eat, with a nice outdoor seating patio and tons of local brews on tap. The reasonably priced menu offers breakfast, appetizers, sandwiches, and salads. Board games are also available, as well as live music and free parking.

A mile or so from Dillon Stadium is Comerio, which offers authentic Puerto Rican cuisine (there is a large Puerto Rican population in Hartford) – the restaurant is small but offers really good cuisine for very good prices. Or about two miles south of Dillon Stadium you will find a fantastic place to enjoy grinders (toasted sub sandwiches), a Connecticut specialty; Franklin Giant Grinder Shop is a deli that offers numerous types of grinders with various meats and cheeses. Several different grinders are offered as well as pizza, pasta, salads, and soup.

Hartford is Connecticut’s capital city and one of Connecticut’s largest cities. It is known as the insurance capital of the World, but much more than insurance companies are present in Hartford. Literature lovers will enjoy the Mark Twain House and the Harriet Beecher Stowe Museum, while art enthusiasts will enjoy the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. Children will like both the adjacent Colt Park, with its many playgrounds and ice-skating rink, as well as Bushnell Park which includes a restored carousel.

There is also the Connecticut Science Center downtown, a large nine-story museum with a theatre that plays movies and shows, and don’t forget the long Riverwalk along Hartford’s Connecticut River. In addition, the Hartford Yard Goats, Hartford’s Double-A minor league baseball team, plays a couple of miles north of Dillon Stadium, so it’s easy to double dip and catch both a baseball game and a soccer game in the same weekend.

There are no hotels right near Dillon Stadium, but none are very far, as there are plenty of hotels in downtown Hartford and just across the Connecticut River. The Hampton Inn and Suites and Holiday Inn are going to be your best value as they are across the river in East Hartford, or the Capitol Hotel would be your best value if you want to stay closer to the downtown area. Because of the number of affordable hotels nearby, making a weekend out of a Hartford Athletic game is easy to do.

Fans 4

The Hartford Athletic played their first seven games at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, the home stadium of the University of Connecticut’s football program, but now the soccer team has a place to truly call their own. The fans at Dillon Stadium truly rise to the occasion – Hartford is no doubt a sports city, and that is truly exemplified with the fans cheering, singing, chanting, and supporting the Blue and Green throughout the match. The first match at Dillon Stadium was an announced sellout at 5,500, and though the team is struggling this season, the fan support here looks very promising.

The crowd is loud throughout the game, led by a fairly large supporter’s section, and the fans are also knowledgeable and quick to voice their displeasure if a call goes against them; they also seem to be familiar with the lineup on the field. Dillon Stadium’s loud but its intimate soccer-specific atmosphere truly provides a tough environment for any visiting team.

Access 3

Dillon Stadium is not in the heart of downtown Hartford but it’s not far from it; it is an easy drive or bus ride from downtown Hartford. Expect some traffic, though, coming to or from the stadium.

Your mass transit option to Dillon Stadium is the CT Fast Track 160 bus which runs three buses to the stadium every 30 minutes from downtown, beginning 90 minutes before the match. Three buses run to the stadium, so it is important to be at the stop no later than 40 minutes before the game. The bus stop is just down the street from the main entrance to the stadium. There is one return bus ten minutes after halftime and fifteen minutes after the end of the match, so for those riding the bus make sure not to linger too long post game, as there is only one bus back to downtown. It could help on crowd control if Fast Track ran one more bus back from the stadium in order to cut back on congestion. Buses are $1.75 for a two-hour pass, and $3.50 will get you a day pass, which allows for transfers anywhere around the area.

There are plenty of parking lots around Dillon Stadium, with parking costing $10, though it’s free for season ticket members. There is also a series of overflow parking lots, which were all utilized during the capacity crowd of the inaugural match. Traffic is definitely heavy, especially a mile out from the stadium, so Lot 2 is probably the best place to park given the large number of spaces here; there is also disability and bike parking in this lot. However, Lots 3 and 4 are close too, and signs to them are well marked. Also, down the road from Lot 3 is the rideshare pick up and drop off area, for those taking Uber or Lyft to and/or from the game.

Getting into Dillon Stadium is fairly easy, as there are a few entrances on the west side of the stadium, and security and concession lines are nearly hassle free. Moving around the concourse is relatively easy, although with the construction going on under the seating area some entrances to the bleachers are blocked off. The concourse does go all the way around the field and is fairly wide, and as you move to the area behind the goals you are still able to get a view of the game action. The current bathrooms are workable but temporary, as they are still working on installing the main restrooms (due for completion later in 2019). There are also disability seating options and the concourse is disability accessible.

Return on Investment 4

Hartford Athletic offers an ideal and affordable professional soccer experience at Dillon Stadium. Nothing is too expensive, and it is easy to attend a match in Hartford without breaking the bank:

Game ticket: $15-$40

Steamed cheeseburger plus a bottled Pepsi: $14

Parking: $10 or Bus Pass: $3.50

Program: Free

Season Ticket Members receive free parking, and groups of 15 or more get $13 seats on the East stands.

Extras 5

One point goes to the free blue Hartford Athletic inaugural game rally towels that were draped on each seat in the stadium. Another point goes to the playing of “Brass Bonanza” after a goal is scored, a nod back to the song played during the Hartford Whalers days in the NHL. Another point to the team owner and the mayor of Hartford for thanking the fans before the match. A fourth point to the large variety of food trucks with a lot of local choices, and finally a point for all that is still to come at Dillon Stadium – this includes the merchandise area becoming a pub, the area behind the north goal becoming a place where fans can walk almost on the field, and the installation of functioning lights on both sides of the stadium so that night games can be played at Dillon Stadium.

Final Thoughts

Hartford, Connecticut is truly a sports city with the Hartford Wolf Pack, Hartford Yard Goats, and the University of Connecticut utilizing the area. The USL Championship expanding to Connecticut’s capital will really pay off as the fans and city are definitely excited to have a professional soccer team in the area.

Dillon Stadium is a great place for fans from all over Connecticut and New England to take in a match. There have also been rumors of an affiliation between the New England Revolution of Major League Soccer and the Hartford Athletic, which would be great, so things are looking very bright on the horizon for soccer in Hartford.

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