The city of Hartford is prepared to build the New Britain Rock Cats (Class AA; Eastern League) a 10,000-capacity ballpark with a price tag of $60 million — a deal Rock Cats owners can’t ignore.
The Rock Cats would pay $500,000 in rent annually on a new downtown ballpark, to be built at 1214 Main Street. Team owners were on hand for a press conference today to announce the new ballpark, which would be financed via city-issued bonds. And with five council members supporting the plan — and only five are needed for passage — it looks like this is close to being a done deal. We’re currently looking at a 2016 opening, as the team’s lease at New Britain Stadium ends at the end of 2015.
(Speaking of New Britain: one bad side effect of this deal was the lack of notice given to New Britain officials, with Mayor Erin E. Stewart saying she had no idea a new ballpark was in the works. Sadly, it doesn’t look like pro baseball can return: with the Rock Cats retaining territorial rights, it’s hard to see the Rock Cats giving permission for another affiliated team to play there, and it’s hard to see the greater Hartford market supporting both affiliated and indy ball.)
We’re not talking about a huge move here: Hartford is about 12 miles from New Britain. Hartford and Springfield were both looking for pro-baseball opportunities in recent years (Springfield, in particular, has been the white whale for more than one ownership group, including Mandalay Baseball Properties).
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.
RELATED STORIES: Rock Cats negotiating move to Hartford: report
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