More details are emerging about the deal struck between the New Britain Rock Cats (Class AA; Eastern League) and Hartford for a new $60-million downtown ballpark.
The 25-year lease (with three five-year options) calls for an initial $500,000 annual lease payment by the Rock Cats for the first 15 years of the lease (as opposed to the $110,000 annual lease payment for New Britain Stadium) for a 220,000-square-foot ballpark, which goes up to $600,000 in subsequent years. If naming rights are sold, the team receives the first $50,000 and the remainder will be split equally between the city and the Rock Cats. Total capacity will be more than 9,000, which includes berm seating, but despite some speculation from the local press there's no indication that this ballpark is being built to Triple-A specs. As most of you know, baseball's facilities standards cover more than just the number of seats in the stands: it also covers team amenities (size of clubhouses, indoor cages, etc.) and other fan amenities (such as number of restrooms). The new ballpark would open in 2016; the team's current lease at New Britain Stadium ends Dec. 31, 2015.
Despite the cost, this wouldn't be the most expensive Double-A ballpark built: Regions Field, the home of the Birmingham Barons (Class AA; Southern League) carried a $64-million price tag.
The city already owns most of the land needed for the development and will buy the remaining 2.08-acre parcel for $1.78 million from Rensselaer Hartford Graduate Center Inc. We're talking about the small footprint here, as the 2.08-acre parcel will be combined with a city-owned 2.9-acre parcel, for a total footprint of 4.98 acres. Four streets -- Main, Trumbull, Windsor and Pleasant -- will be realigned and changed, with the ballpark address at 1241 Main Street. The city will issue up to $42 million in new bonding and reallocate between $18 million and $22.6 million from other city bonding efforts in the Capital Improvement Fund. That existing bonding will be used immediately to begin planning of the ballpark, and it's anticipated the city will approach the state for funding that would bring down the amount needed for later bonding. The team will put nothing up front on the construction.
Mayor Pedro Segarra says the new ballpark will create 903 construction jobs and the equivalent of 665 full-time employees, numbers generated by Rich Neumann of Brailsford & Dunlavey in a feasibility study prepared by the city. (Also participating in that study: Jonathan Cole of Pendulum Studios.) Hiring efforts by the team will include subcontracts for Hartford and minority firms, along with a commitment to a living wage, which in 2014-2015 was defined by the city as $22.21 per hour.
If approved Monday, the city will move forward with the next step of ballpark development, which includes A public hearing on the proposal is set for July 21.
The team is a solid, though unspectacular draw in the Eastern League, ranking sixth in that circuit in 2013 with 4,653 fans per game, for a total of 307,097.
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