The city of Hartford used a special exhibition between the powerhouse University of Connecticut Women’s Basketball team and the best American pros as an opportunity to showcase area businesses.
Team USA visited Hartford to play the Huskies in a tune-up for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Before the game, Hartford's Pratt Street was open only to foot traffic for three hours. The idea was to give spectators a place to go in advance of a 7 p.m. tip-off at the XL Center.
Christine Abate came down with her wife Julie Cook from Hallowell, Maine for the exhibition.
“I’ve been a UConn fan forever and then with the USA team coming to town, I just really wanted to see it,” Abate said.
The UConn/Team USA bout was something of a homecoming for Abate: she used to live in Wallingford.
“I haven’t been in this area in over 25-30 years,” Abate said. “It’s kind of cool to step back a little in time. Last time I was in the building down the street, it was still the Civic Center.”
Jeff and Idalina Cultrera of Newington took a pre-game stroll down Pratt Street with their twin nine-year-old daughters Gabriella and Samantha.
“Hartford is such a great city,” Idalina Cultrera said. “I know we don’t get out here enough and it’s just great to see people come before an event and just spend some time enjoying the city.”
The event marked a big night for the Cultrera twins – both of whom are UConn basketball fans.
“I’m looking forward to see them play because I play basketball too.” Samantha Cultrera said. “It’ll help me get better.”
This was the second time in a year that the city’s Chamber of Commerce put on a block party on Pratt Street as the sports world descended on Hartford. Last March, Connecticut’s capital hosted the men’s NCAA basketball tournament for the first time since 1998. The street was closed to car traffic from noon to 9 p.m. on the two days games were played around the corner at the XL Center.
“There’s so many amazing events happening like this around the city and we just want to focus on driving people into the city, into the neighborhoods, and attending these awesome events,” said Shannon Mumley, director of small business and strategy, Hartford Chamber of Commerce.