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Why are Rock Cats moving to Hartford? Follow the money

New Hartford ballpark

A potential rise in revenues to $8.1 million annually is a big reason why the New Britain Rock Cats (Class AA; Eastern League) are moving to a new downtown Hartford ballpark.

A study from Brailsford & Dunlavey, submitted to the team and city in February, estimated that a move to the larger Hartford could boost team revenues to amongst the top 15 in Minor League Baseball. That would be a huge bump over what the team is doing at New Britain Stadium. The cause of the bump: more access to corporate sponsorships. From the Hartford Business Journal:

Part of the value of the Rock Cats’ move from New Britain to Hartford will be a shift in the team’s business model from relying on a largely family fan base to counting much more on corporate sponsorships and downtown employees attending games after hours, according to a former Rock Cats executive.

Evan Levy, who served as the Rock Cats marketing vice president until the team was sold to the current ownership group in 2012, said in New Britain the team’s revenues have been split evenly among ticket sales, corporate sponsorships, and concessions/merchandising.

By moving from New Britain to a state-of-the-art, $60 million stadium in downtown Hartford, the amount of money flowing from corporations will likely increase significantly, Levy said. Brailsford & Dunlavey estimates revenue from corporate sponsorships, stadium naming rights, and luxury suites will be $1.8 million in 2016.

One issue for the Rock Cats: despite New Britain only being 11 miles or so from Hartford, the Hartford corporate community has never embraced the team, forcing the front office to rely on local businesses (like Stanley Black & Decker) for support and ticket revenue. A move to Hartford should make the team more attractive to larger businesses, such as insurance giants still doing business in the city.

The new $60-million ballpark is set to open in 2016.

RELATED STORIES: Hartford ballpark plan: 10,000 capacity, $60M price tag; Rock Cats negotiating move to Hartford: report


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