Come to the UFL in Hartford – I Swear its Fun

ufl2A few years back the City of Hartford launched an advertising campaign designed to attract more young people to live and work in the City.  One of the more infamous promotions included a billboard placed on I-84 that read “Come to Hartford. I swear, it’s fun.”  The billboard was derided as an indictment of people’s expectations for Hartford.  And people implied the exact opposite of the intended message.

As to whether professional sports will return to Hartford, low expectations persist.  To some, the old Hartford Whalers jerseys that are worn around the area, and even at UConn football games, indicate desperation for more sporting options.  Professional sports in particular.  And now the location of a United Football League (UFL) franchise in Hartford appears to be a foregone conclusion.  But the question remains, is Hartford so starved for professional sports that it will immediately support the UFL?

Last night’s game at Rentschler Field was the first step in answering that question.  Attendance was low – announced as 5, 201 – and the first level midfield chair back seats were not even full.  This figure was well below the league average of about 12,000 and initial projections of 20,000 for the league.  However, the UFL has acknowledged that it did little to market the leagues games.  And it appeared that the UFL did even less to market this particular game in which the New York Sentinels played a “home” game in East Hartford, Connecticut.   It also didn’t help that Miley Cyrus played the XL Center in downtown Hartford, while UConn held a tribute for Jasper Howard, who starred on the same field that the UFL hopes to someday call home.

Nevertheless, UFL Commissioner Michael Hugyhue acknowledges that the league is still in an experimental phase.  Huyghue sees great potential for football in Hartford as evidenced by UConn’s success.  Of course the fact that a UFL team will already have a first-class stadium in place is half the battle (and also one of the primary reasons that the Whalers left town and the Wolf Pack posts low attendance numbers.)  It’s worth noting that in addition to Huyghue, both coaches, Jim Haslett for Florida and Ted Cottrell for New York, commented on the virtues of Rentschler Field.  Although the UFL won’t rely on gate receipts to make money, the gate will provide a barometer of community enthusiasm.

While Hartford may prove to be an excellent home to UFL franchise, the UFL will need to do more than turn on the lights and watch the fans flock to the game.  There are other options for football, even beyond UConn, in this state.  (See my article UFL Update: Is Connecticut an Under Served Football Market?)  A UFL team will need to market heavily and create ties to the local community.

Last night’s game proved that there are other entertainment options in the Greater Hartford area.  But it also proved that there is some enthusiasm for a Hartford franchise.  With proper marketing the UFL could become one of those options.  And I swear last night’s game was fun.




  1. […] like Thursday’s UFL game, it is far too early to judge.  Attendance appeared between 25-40 percent capacity of the […]

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