On this day in 2003, the UConn Huskies football team kicked off a new era in Connecticut college sports as they played their first-ever game in a brand-new, 92 million, 40,000-seat stadium stadium at Rentschler Field in East Hartford. The new stadium was the result of a decade-long search for a suitable new home for the University of Connecticut’s expanding Division I football team. Other potential stadium sites included the university’s flagship campus in Storrs and Adriaen’s Landing in downtown Hartford, but after United Technologies Corp. offered to donate 75 acres of land for a new stadium next to its Pratt & Whitney division headquarters in East Hartford — and then sweetened the deal by adding another 100 acres for parking — the decision was made to build the new stadium there.
Rentschler Field was named after Frederick Rentschler, a pioneering aviation engineer and founder of Pratt & Whitney’s aircraft division (which still calls East Hartford its home). In 1931, the field became home to a private, corporate airstrip that served as a testing ground for Pratt & Whitney engines and Hamilton Standard propellers and, for a few years, as a military airstrip during World War II. The airfield remained in service until formally closing in 1999, after which United Technologies donated the land for the Huskies’ new stadium.
On August 31, 2003, the Huskies opened their first football game at Rentschler Field with a decisive 34-10 win against Indiana University, thrilling a crowd of more than 38,000 people. Since that opening day, “The Rent” has hosted both all sorts of professional and collegiate sporting events as well as several notable concerts, including a sell-out performances by Bruce Springsteen and the Rolling Stones. Fifteen years later, the Huskies continue chasing their Division I football dreams in what has since been formally renamed Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field.
“Aug. 31, 2003: Perfect Opener for Rentschler Field,” Hartford Courant
“College Football: Huskies Ring in New and Resolve to Keep Rolling,” New York Times