This year, UConn soccer is slated to compete at Dillon Stadium in downtown Hartford while the university completes construction of Joseph J. Morrone Stadium at the Rizza Family Soccer Complex in Storrs. While the move is only temporary, soccer joins several UConn athletic teams that compete away from the flagship campus, including the football team, which plays home games at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, and the basketball teams, which draw crowds at the XL Center in Hartford when not competing at Gampel in Storrs.
While the concentration of home games throughout the state is somewhat unusual, it is not without its benefits, such as UConn’s expanded representation throughout the state. In addition, the growing Hartford campus is home to several thousand students, many of whom greatly enjoy the privilege of being a mere few minutes away from the XL Center and Rentschler Field. Home games in the Hartford area draw heavily from this satellite campus, attracting student support that might have otherwise been lost if the games were held at Storrs. Furthermore, with no major professional sports teams to speak of, the UConn basketball programs are arguably the pride and joy of the state of Connecticut. While Gampel provides the classic aura of UConn basketball, the XL Center seats more, thus generating more revenue and allowing for a greater number of fans to support the team.
This all said, sports teams are family. And there is an argument to be made that they need to come home. There are many soccer fans on the Storrs campus that will likely not be making the trek to Hartford for games now. Plenty of basketball faithful have not bothered with the XL Center. Far more have never been to a football game—low attendance at Rentschler was one of the driving factors in the university’s decision to allow students free admission with the mere swipe of a student ID. If the goal is to increase student attendance, then it’s helpful to remove obstacles. Losing teams aside, a long drive can be a moat between busy students and games.
There are certainly benefits to having homes away from home, but are our teams losing out? After all, the spirit of UConn lies in Storrs, and teams can always use a breath of life from their most ardent supporters.
Thumbnail photo by Hanaisha Lewis / The Daily Campus.