Pratt and Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field – Connecticut Huskies
Fifteen Years at the Rent
Football has been played at the University of Connecticut since 1896. From 1953 to 2002, their home was the on-campus Memorial Stadium, which seated 16,200 fans. This stadium was adequate for the team’s needs at the time, as the Huskies played in Division 1-A. When the school made the move to FBS, the NCAA’s top division, a new home for the Huskies was needed.
When the city of Hartford attempted to woo the New England Patriots to Connecticut, a stadium was planned to house both the Huskies and Patriots. When the Patriots announced that they were staying in Foxboro, the original 70,000 seat downtown stadium project was scrapped. A new site for the UConn stadium emerged when Pratt and Whitney donated land across the Connecticut River in East Hartford at the old Rentschler Airfield for a stadium.
Rentschler Field is located 21 miles west of the University of Connecticut campus. The stadium was the first new stadium used primarily by an FBS team built in the 21st century. The stadium has also served as the home of the Hartford Colonials of the UFL, and as host to several US national soccer team friendlies.
In 2015 Rentschler Field was renamed Pratt and Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field in a deal between the company and UConn. As part of the deal, Pratt and Whitney donated additional land at the site that is used for game day parking.
The Huskies play in the American Athletic Conference, the new configuration of the Big East football conference. UConn has won a pair of Big East conference championships and played in six bowl games since their move to FBS in 2000.
Food & Beverage 5
At first glance, the concessions at Rentschler Field may seem like an afterthought. Several of the stands are tucked into tiny spaces underneath stadium supports. Take a closer look, however, and it becomes clear that the concession experience is a strength of the UConn game day experience.
Stands are organized by menu items. Choices include Roma Pizza, Grill Masters, Fresh Classics, Chicken Fry Fry, Hot Dog Nation and Chef Express. Everything from your stadium classics to the popular Rent Dog, Husky Burger and even loaded baked potatoes can be found.
To experience the best of Rentschler Field’s concessions, head to the northwest end zone, where some of the stadium’s more unique options are located. Local favorite Bear BBQ has a permanent stand where fans can select from their popular mac and cheese topped with brisket, sausage or pulled pork. The Whey Station specializes in gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and awesome tater tots.
In addition, several local favorites drive their food trucks right onto the concourse to add to the already diverse menu. Ted’s Restaurant serves up their famous steamed burgers. Toasted boasts a menu loaded with gourmet sandwiches. On the other end of the stadium, the Chick-fil-A stand is a popular spot.
Coca-Cola products are featured at Rentschler Field. Fans looking for adult beverages have many choices, as Budweiser, Bud Light, Coors Light, Harpoon Brewery and Guinness stands are located throughout the concourse. Fans looking for something a bit more unique and regional should head towards the southwest end of the facility, where the Two Roads and Sam Adams Taphouses are located side by side. In addition to a wide selection of craft brews, food items including bratwurst, beef on weck, and chowder are sold here.
The Huskies have instituted several improvements to the game day experience designed to bring up the overall atmosphere for fans, but in the end, the half-empty stadium dampens these efforts. However, there is plenty to do and see at Rentschler Field to keep all fans, from the casual to the most ardent, engaged.
Some of the changes made for the 2018 season include shuttle busses to bring fans from more distant lots to the stadium, a happy hour before the game which features discounted concessions and merchandise, an enhanced Fan Fest before the game, and post-game access to the field.
Much of what goes on at Rentschler Field will be familiar to the college football fan. There is a large scoreboard in the northwest end zone that is put to good use with game stats, replays, crowd shots, and social media shout outs. The large band, cheerleading and dance squads perform throughout the game. Unfortunately, with the on-field struggles of the Huskies recently, fan support has fallen off, including the student body, which formerly packed the sections of the southeast end zone, but now largely stay home in Storrs rather than traveling the 21 miles to East Hartford.
There is an active tailgating scene in the lots surrounding Rentschler Field. While it will never be confused with some of the great tailgating venues around the country, fans come out early, and there are some great parties to be found.
While Rentschler Field’s location as an old aviation center works well in terms of making space available for tailgating and room for parking, the downside is there isn’t much around Rentschler Field for fans looking for things to do. There is a Cabela’s store nearby, and a shopping center on Silver Lane out closer to the highway, but nothing else around to attract the visiting fan.
Downtown Hartford is only four miles away across the Connecticut River. If schedules line up, visiting fans can pair a UConn football game with a minor league hockey game at the XL Center or a minor league baseball game at Dunkin’ Donuts Park. The UConn campus is 21 miles away in rural Storrs, but a trip to Gampel Pavilion would be worth the trip if the Huskies have a basketball game scheduled.
As the Huskies’ record in recent seasons has fallen, so has attendance at Rentschler Field. In 2018 the team is averaging about 20,000 fans per game. This is a decrease of almost 50 percent from their high-water mark of 38,000 under a decade ago.
Crowds vary greatly depending on the day’s opponent and weather. The student section, which used to overflow with Husky faithful despite Rentschler Field’s location well off campus, now sits almost deserted on certain games.
Getting to Rentschler Field is easy, as it is located just off Interstate 84. Simply take exit 58 and follow the signs to the stadium. Even with only one way in and out of the facility, wide roads and experienced staff make access a fairly smooth process.
There is plenty of room to park in the grassy lots around Rentschler Field. Even though some of these lots are a decent walk from the stadium, the team has instituted shuttle busses to improve access.
There are four entry gates on each corner of the stadium. After a security scan, fans enter onto a single concourse that circles the field. 100 level ticket holders will walk down to their seats, while 200 level ticket holders will go up.
Most seats at Rentschler Field are aluminum bleachers without backs, with sections around midfield featuring individual folding stadium seats. Fans can rent chair backs for $10. All seats feature good views of the action.
Return on Investment 3
Tickets for UConn football games range in price from $23 to $50. Parking in the many lots that surround Rentschler Field costs an additional $15. Concession prices, while generally in line with most facilities in the area, feel a little high, particularly for premium items. Be sure to check out the happy hour that takes place during the first hour after gates open for discounts on many items.
The Connecticut High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame has a display on the main concourse. Many of the state’s top coaches, administrators and athletes are honored here.
Former UConn player Jasper Howard is honored with a statue of his uniform number six in the northwest end zone. Howard, who was killed just hours after a Husky game in 2009, was an inspirational leader of the Husky teams during his three seasons with the team.
Photos of Rentschler Field’s Aviation history are displayed on supports throughout the concourse. They give information about the facility’s past as an important aviation research facility.
As the Huskies’ fortunes have faded over the past several seasons, so has the support for the team at Rentschler Field. In less than a decade attendance has fallen almost fifty percent. Rentschler Field remains a solid, if unspectacular, home for the Huskies. In New England, where only three football teams compete at the sport’s top level, a trip to East Hartford gives local fans a rare taste of big-time college football.
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Latest Crowd Reviews
Pratt and Whitney Stadium is one of the few Division 1 stadiums in New England. As one of the few high end college football programs in the area it is a fitting home for the UCONN Huskies. No one will ever mistake this as big time college football, but it is a very enjoyable place to catch a game and have some food. I would recommend making a trip up here if you’re in New England to catch some affordable Division 1 football.
As UConn enters its second decade at the top level of collegiate football, its status continues to evolve. Presently, it competes at a level just a little below their more established brethren as the program continues to find its niche. This is no small feat at a basketball powerhouse such as UConn. Likewise, the gameday experience at Rentschler Field is going through similar growing pains. This is a fine facility with good support and a decent overall atmosphere. Still, it’s not totally where it needs to be yet. In New England, where there are only three FBS teams in the entire six-state region, Rentschler Field is as close to the big time as you are going to get.