Editorial: Let's Hope Dillon Stadium Deal Pays Off

The Hartford Courant has weighed in on the new Dillon plan. Read here or below.

Let's Hope Dillon Stadium Deal Pays Off

The state has committed $10 million to the renovation of Hartford’s Dillon Stadium, but officials must ensure the investment will pay off.

Dillon Stadium, a weed-infested rust heap owned by the city of Hartford, is about to get a $10 million makeover, courtesy of state taxpayers. A private company will chip in up to another $10 million with the goal of bringing a professional soccer team to the city by this time next year.

Before anyone at the state Capitol spends a dime, they need to ask the question: Is it worth it? It better be. The state cannot afford to blow money on a bad idea.

The Capital Region Development Authority will oversee the development, and Hartford Sports Group would be the main tenant. HSG would pay $300,000 a year and will have access to the stadium for 20 years.

It’s only worth it if the plan works. If the stadium is properly rehabilitated into a family-friendly arena, and if professional soccer draws a crowd, then it just might. If the city can use the field for other events — concerts, graduations and the like — and if it helps bolster the nearby Coltsville area, then the investment could be worth the risk.

But it will need proper stewardship to see it through, and that responsibility now rests with the CRDA.

Despite its profound financial problems, the state cannot simply cease all economic development activity. That would be counterproductive. It must still make smart investments, but they should be surgical, clearly defined and done with private partners whenever possible.

Taxpayers are right to question whether the entire state benefits from an investment in a relic in southern Hartford. The answer is yes — only if it is part of a wider commitment to the health of the state’s capital city. For Hartford to be a thriving regional hub that attracts businesses and people, it must have the right facilities and amenities.

The Dillon Stadium deal fits with that kind of thinking. The state, the city and Hartford Sports Group are committed. The facility’s update has a modest price tag compared to the long-term economic growth it can drive. The neighborhood will benefit from the investment, which will attract more development. And professional soccer can draw fans from a wide base.

It’s now up to the CRDA to ensure that the plan comes together.

TJ ClynchComment