By Chris Jones - UConn Athletic Communications
Rolling through the month of October is an exciting time for soccer teams across the country. For the UConn men’s and women’s soccer programs most of the excitement is garnered on the field with their respective pushes towards the postseason. But on Monday it was off the field news that sparked enthusiasm for the programs.
Tony Rizza, a former UConn men’s soccer player, pledged a total of $8 million, the largest gift in UConn athletics history toward the building of a new soccer stadium on the Storrs campus.
"This gift is my way of recognizing coaches, faculty and campus staff who helped me while I was at UConn, and it's a small way of saying thank you," Rizza said. "I look forward to seeing my gift help UConn build a world-class soccer complex that will keep both the men's and women's soccer programs in their spots among the premier soccer programs in America.”
Morrone Stadium has been a great atmosphere for UConn soccer but with the stadium growing older and other college programs spending money to upgrade their facilities, men’s soccer coach Ray Reid says it’s time for an upgrade.
“Morrone Stadium is a great place to play, it’s intimidating, but it’s falling apart, there are no bleachers behind one of the goals, no video board or and our locker room is tough to fit 30 guys into,” said Reid. “We can put in a film room, conference room, a study hall, and our offices and strength will be there as well. It will be a state of the art facility for Lenny’s [Tsantiris] program and ours.”
Connecticut women’s soccer coach Len Tsantiris described the announcement as one of the great days in UConn Soccer history.
“It’s one of the greatest days up until now, besides winning national championships and being in the College Cup,” said Tsantiris. “There was never really anything done for the stadium, besides the days of Coach Morrone. It’s a future.”
The timeline for the start of construction is planned for December 2015. Unfortunately for the upperclassmen, like current men’s soccer player Adria Beso Marco, they will have to check it out as an alum.
“I wish I had three more years of eligibility, said Beso Marco. “In the end though I’m happy for the guys and happy for the program, it’s huge for us and huge for UConn.”
The clock of anticipation has begun as the waiting begins for the new facilities. But for now the UConn Soccer family celebrates the generosity of one of their own, Tony Rizza.