After years of fundraising and planning, work is finally set to commence on the new UConn athletic stadiums in the “Athletics District” of the Storrs campus. This project will replace the Huskies’ outdated baseball, soccer and softball stadiums with new, state-of-the-art facilities.
Beginning on Aug. 27, the western-most portion of Jim Calhoun Way between Separatist Road and I-Lot will be closed for infrastructure work to accommodate the running water and electricity needed at the new facilities. The road is expect to re-open Oct. 1, although various portions will be closed between now and 2020 due to the construction.
It also mentioned Freitas Ice Forum, the on-campus hockey rink “will also be renovated and expanded.” At this time, it is unclear if this would allow the UConn men’s hockey team to once again play games on campus. Currently, they play all their home games at the XL Center in Hartford because Freitas does not meet the standards for a Hockey East arena.
UPDATE: According to UConn, the renovations are related the the offices and locker rooms, not seat expansion.
The stadiums all lag behind the success of the individual programs that play inside them. The UConn baseball team is the top program in the Northeast, having reached the NCAA Tournament five times since 2010 with three conference championships.
The soccer teams are historic powers in each of their respective sports. The men’s team are three-time national champions while the women’s team reached the championship game four times but fell to powerhouse North Carolina each time.
Both Ray Reid and Margaret Rodriguez expressed how important the stadium is for their respective programs on 97.9 ESPN’s Husky Insider Podcast.
“This facility for men’s soccer should be a program changer because nobody is going to have it when we have it,” Reid said. “It’s going to give our athletes a chance to be treated the right way, have what we need to compete. We had these conversations with [athletic director Lew Perkins] in the 2000’s.”
“It’s a huge selling point,” Rodriguez echoed. “I played here back in the 90’s and to be honest, a lot of it hasn’t changed. It’s a good field but it needs to change. For us, we’re recruiting in the Northeast and if we want to separate ourselves in the Northeast, we need this facility.”
They are expected to break ground on the soccer stadium at the conclusion of the regular season, with the final match coming on Oct. 27 when men’s soccer faces SMU.
“This is the last opening night we’re playing here,” Reid said. “I don’t know where we’re playing next year, I hope we’re not playing here because if we’re playing here something went off the tracks.”
However, this does mean that if either team hosts a postseason game, whether it be conference or NCAA Tournament, that game will need to be held at a different location, likely Pratt & Whitney Stadium.
“That’s the price of progress,” athletic director David Benedict said on the podcast. “Both coaches were supportive of that because at the end of the day, we want this facility to continue to build momentum and get the dirt moving so we can get it up and running.”
The soccer stadium is scheduled to be completed for the 2020 season, meaning the Huskies will need to move off-campus next season. They are expected to play at Pratt & Whitney Stadium, although the renovated Dillon Stadium was in the mix at some point as well.
The baseball and softball stadiums are set to be demolished after each team’s respective season, meaning both teams will also be off for a season. Baseball is expected to split games between Dunkin’ Donuts Park in Hartford, Eastern Connecticut State’s baseball stadium in nearby Willimantic and Dodd Stadium in Norwich.