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Hartford Plans To Build Rock Cats New Stadium

by Jhansi Katechia | Jun 4, 2014 4:02pm
(16) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Town News, Hartford, New Britain, Sports

Christine Stuart photo

Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra and Shawn Wooden on the steps of City Hall

The owner of a minor league baseball team and Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra announced plans Wednesday to build a $60-million stadium in the capital city and move the Rock Cats 13-miles from New Britain to Hartford.

“We explored our opportunities and the ability to bring baseball to the capital city was a tremendous opportunity that we couldn’t pass on,” Josh Solomon, managing partner of the Rock Cats, said on the steps of Hartford City Hall Wednesday afternoon.

The Rock Cats, an affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, and Hartford officials have been discussing the move for about 17 months. They said the plan is to have the stadium built before opening day in 2016.

Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra said that moving the Rock Cats to Hartford will put the team in an easily accessible location between two major highways and will benefit the local economy.

“This is an economic development opportunity for our city which we simply could not pass up,” Segarra said.

Courtesy of the City of Hartford The new 220,000 square foot stadium would seat about 10,000 spectators.

Segarra said there is sufficient parking in the area so they don’t believe it’s necessary to build additional parking.

“We’re excited what the new ballpark will have to offer to the fans of central Connecticut and we cannot wait for the first pitch in 2016,” Solomon said. “Like the mayor, we’re proud to be bringing baseball back to the city of Hartford.”

Minor league baseball was last played in Hartford in 1952.

Segarra and Hartford Council President Shawn Wooden signaled they had the support of the council to move forward with construction of the stadium. Segarra said they are exploring tax increment financing, which would use future gains in taxes to subsidize construction of the project. However, it was still unclear exactly how the city planned to pay for it.

Segarra said he’s hoping that this facility will be used year-round and will help connect the north end neighborhood to downtown. He said the city has already identified two developers capable of undertaking the project.

Officials estimated that the new stadium would create 600 new full-time positions and 900 construction jobs.

Christine Stuart photo

New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart

New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart maintained Wednesday that until she hears directly from the Rock Cats management, she’s not convinced they will be leaving New Britain.

“I have yet to receive confirmation that they’re leaving New Britain,” Stewart said after an unrelated event. “I’ll patiently wait for my face-to-face meeting with them, but until then I would like to think that they would give me the decency of a meeting to inform me of their decision.”

Stewart said if they are planning to move to Hartford she’s baffled from a business standpoint. She said they pay $109,000 a year in rent and a share of the utilities in New Britain. From what she’s heard of the Hartford plans she believes New Britain is a better deal.

“I can’t imagine this is a financially prudent option for the team,” Stewart said.

Solomon didn’t have anything bad to say about New Britain. The team has been located there for 20 years.

“We’ve had a great relationship with the city of New Britain,” he said. “We have been there for 20 years, we’ve satisfied all obligations of our lease, and the lease is coming up [at] the end of 2015.”

The team’s lease in New Britain is up in March 2015. Stewart said if they decide to leave she would hunt for another minor league baseball team to call New Britain home.

Segarra said if Hartford hadn’t offered to build the stadium, the Rock Cats would have left the state.

The new Hartford stadium will be located at 1214 Main Street and will require realignment of Trumbull Street.

“This is an area that has not been developed for a long time, an area that has substantial growth opportunities,” Segarra said.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who attended an unrelated press conference with Stewart on Wednesday, said he’s staying out of the dispute between the two cities.

“We were not involved at all,” Malloy said. “Listen, I’m a big believer in supporting communities with appropriate development.”

Malloy said he hasn’t seen the proposal and didn’t watch the Hartford press conference, so it’s too early to know whether legislative action would be needed to approve plans for financing the new stadium. No state money is currently involved.

“This is not a position I would want to put myself in to begin with. Two great communities, New Britain where I’ve made some pretty substantial investments to try and be helpful to the community and I believe we actually are being helpful to the community. As well as Hartford, where we’ve made some substantial investments particularly in the downtown.”

Christine Stuart contributed to this report.

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(16) Comments

posted by: DrHunterSThompson | June 4, 2014  4:26pm

DrHunterSThompson

Krayeske’s piece is pretty right on.  With all the issues in hartford and all the $$ the state throws their way this seems to be totally irresponsible.  Public money should never be used for sports stadiums is the Doctor’s position.  Especially in a train wreck of a city that has been an embarrassment for years.

Hey Mayor, get your educational issues, your crime issues, your housing issues solved before tossing million$ at a minor league franchise.

Hey Guv, no more cash for Hartford.

HST

posted by: shocked | June 4, 2014  4:39pm

Does anyone really believe it doesnt involved state funds? Just wondering - what % each NB’s and Hartford’s budget comes from the state?  Sure since money isnt fungible maybe I am wrong but call me skeptical.

And helps the local economy? Do you really think Hartford and NB are two different economies? Ummm ok.  I guess they are picking a winner and loser it just might be interesting to see in a few years which one was the winner and which was the loser.

posted by: art vandelay | June 4, 2014  9:23pm

art vandelay

This makes absolutely NO SENSE.  Where is Hartford coming up with the 60 (actually 100 Million)?  They are not going to get it from the corporations who pay taxes.  They will leave unless Malloy bribes them.
It has no tax base from its citizenry.  Who is going to drive into the north end of Hartford only to get their cars broken into.
I could go on and on why this is a terrible idea.

posted by: Noteworthy | June 4, 2014  9:28pm

The Rock Cats are a private business, who will not employ more people. Hartford is a broke azz city without two nickles to rub against each other, mountains of debt and sky high property taxes. The city council just turned down a $6.5 million budget increase and a tax increase. And now the mayor wants to spend $60 million on a new stadium for a second rate baseball team. If there is any remote idea of using state funds for this fiasco, forget it. The state is as broke as Hartford.

posted by: dano860 | June 4, 2014  11:36pm

Chris Powell said it well

They brag about the jobs they will create. How about the ones they will leave behind?

posted by: Diogenese | June 5, 2014  6:44am

First I have to say I’m stunned that Hartford was able to keep the talks a secret for over a year.

I don’t see how this deal makes sense for the Rock Cats, which may explain why it’s still hasn’t been signed.

I take my family to one or two games a year. I really doubt we’ll attend any games at the new venue - assuming the move happens.

posted by: art vandelay | June 5, 2014  8:42am

art vandelay

After the stadium is built, what would prevent the Rock Cats from filing chapter 11, or simply pulling up stakes after a year or two of low attendance?  Hartford would be left with another “White Elephant”.  Look what happened to the Norwich Navigators, and the franchises in Torrington & Waterbury.  I understand the Bluefish in Bridgeport are on life support.
The Rock Cats are the only successful sports franchise in this state. Their success can only be attributed to their location.  No one in their right mind is going to attend a sports event in the high crime gang infested streets of North Hartford.

posted by: Noteworthy | June 5, 2014  11:13am

In reading this article again, I see where they claim a new stadium will “create 600 new full time jobs.” That is on the basis of what? Can we see that math? It sounds a lot like ... “hmmmm, 60 million, 600 jobs…sound good.” The 900 construction jobs will last a short period of time. Somebody needs to pull their head out - where it sits is not a hat rack.

posted by: Salmo | June 5, 2014  12:06pm

I’d love to comment on this but there is no way I could come up to the eloquence of those on this blog only to say I agree with them completely.

posted by: mmal231294 | June 5, 2014  12:10pm

Krayeske hit the nail on the head. Culture matters, this will fail. The denizens of that part of Hartford are as likely to support a minor league baseball team as they would a Hockey team….oh wait we tried that! LOL

posted by: ASTANVET | June 5, 2014  1:11pm

at least they can ride the 600 million dollar busway to work.

posted by: art vandelay | June 5, 2014  1:49pm

art vandelay

@ASTANVENT,
The Busway ends 3/4 of a mile away from where the proposed stadium is suppose to be built.

posted by: CT Jim | June 5, 2014  3:39pm

Whether you all like it or not this is a win for Hartford and a huge loss for NB. The rock cats seem to be pretty good at marketing their team and must figure they can get people to the city and at 9,000 seats I’d say their right. I’d be more embarrassed for the Mayor of NB who watches a press conference on TV then refuses to believe it will happen. All I can say for her is Ouch!!

posted by: art vandelay | June 5, 2014  5:09pm

art vandelay

@CT JimT,
I respectfully disagree. This is a MAJOR Loose/Loose for Hartford.  A major reason why the Rock Cats draw well is because fans feel secure in Willow Brook Park. People do NOT feel the same in the north end of Hartford. Maybe you weren’t around during the days of Jai Alia.  Cars were broken into and people were assaulted.  One basically took their lives in their hands.  The North End is much worse than it was in the 70’s.
Every other writer to this article well articulated the other reasons why this is a terrible decision.  I was surprised (but not) that Brad Davis was a proponent.  Regarding New Britain obtaining another franchise, I seriously doubt it.  The market cannot absorb two minor league teams.  Hartford also forgot their experiment with football back in the late 60’s at Dillon Stadium.  It too was a disaster.  The other losers are the taxpayers of Hartford who will have to foot the bill.

posted by: shinningstars122 | June 6, 2014  6:20am

shinningstars122

@ArtVandelay my goodness are you completely ignorant of the changes occuring on the other side of North Main street in Hartford.

To begin with there is a new, and very sucessful magnet school thriving. Even kids from the suburbs are trying to get in.

The new Hartford police station is less than 2 blocks away.

This will be just a great boom for Hartford.

Many of the corporations I am sure will buy up luxury seating and the Rock Cats have worked hard to build up attendence.

Now people from the other side of the river will get to enjoy a game with out adding nearly forty five minutes to go back and forth to New Britain.

It clear the majority of you never even set a foot in Hartford.

Your loss dudes.

posted by: Bluecoat | June 6, 2014  4:35pm

The Governors State political wing OPM jury-rigged the State Regional Planning Agencies.
What is the chance that the Cities and Towns that were forced to join the Hartford Based CRCOG(Capital Region Council of Governments), will have their dues increased, or forced to help pay for the new stadium as it will enhance the Capitol City, therefore their good fortune will help everyone. Will the City of New Britain, which elected to join this agency, rethink this decision and develop another planning agency? Will there be a fight between Hartford and New Britain about this?