Hartford City FC, a professional soccer team in the National Premier Soccer League, will begin its inaugural season this May on the New Britain campus of Central Connecticut State University.
"That trademark represents Hartford," said Aaron Sarwar, an entrepreneur from West Hartford who bought the rights to Hartford City FC last June. "It represents us. It represents soccer and the community."
Premier Sports Management Group was the team's original owner. It hoped to play soccer at Hartford's Dillon Stadium, between Colt Park and the Connecticut River in the city's South End.
But the team eventually dissolved after the group’s backers, James C. Duckett Jr. and Mitch Anderson, were indicted by a federal grand jury on 26 counts including fraud and conspiracy. Anderson pleaded guilty on Monday, according to The Hartford Courant.
Now, Sarwar, Hartford City FC’s current owner, said he has a plan to privately fund the renovation of Dillon Stadium at no cost to the city of Hartford. Sarwar said his plan that involves painting the facilities, adding new restrooms, along with new locker rooms, would not cost anywhere near that figure.
The 9,600 seat venue must reach standards compliant with the American’s with Disabilities Act before a move can be made. Sarwar has been told that the City of Hartford first must work with the United States Department of Justice to ensure Dillon Stadium is ADA compliant and there is no timetable yet on when the situation will be sorted out.
The team’s new owner hopes Hartford City FC can move forward to New Britain for now and away from the team’s turbulent past.
"We want soccer in Hartford," Sarwar said. "I, as well as all the fans, were just so disappointed. I didn’t want to see everything go to waste."
No professional soccer team has called Hartford home since 1981, and although the long-term goal is for Hartford City FC to get back to Dillon Stadium, they will play 10 miles away at CCSU.
Sarwar said there is already a lot of fan enthusiasm: 60 season tickets have sold. "The Agents of Hale," Hartford City FC’s booster club of local soccer fans, are responsible for at least two dozen of those sales, according to club president Mike Kane.
"Now I think we are as excited as ever about soccer and maybe even the heartbreak from what happened last year makes us that much more motivated to throw all of our support behind it," Kane said.
"We do want [the team] to play at Dillon Stadium," he said. "We understand what that would mean to the community and what that kind of represents as the history they have there, but right now, I think Central Connecticut State is a very appropriate venue."
The NPSL contains the most teams of all in the United States Soccer League System.
HCFC won’t be the only expansion team in their conference this season. New Haven’s Elm City FC joins them as Atlantic division rivals.