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Legislators debate Hartford ballpark tax rebate

New Britain Rock Cats ballpark, Hartford

Connecticut legislators are debating a rebate on the state’s admissions tax on tickets sold at a new Hartford Yard Goats (Class AA; Eastern League) ballpark, which could help pay down bonds in coming years.

The new ballpark, currently under construction for the relocating New Britain Rock Cats in 2016, already has a funding plan in place, but the rebate of the state’s admissions tax — $426,000 annually — is being deemed state aid for the project by Republican lawmakers. The state really doesn’t have a solid policy about the admissions tax — the XL Center in Hartford and Webster Arena in Bridgeport are exempt from paying it — and while it’s not common to see a rebate, it has the same effect as what is happening with other Connecticut venues. From the Hartford Courant:

“We had a promise” that no state tax dollars would be used in the Hartford transaction, said Senate Republican leader Len Fasano. “I believe it was a general understanding by most” legislators that there would be no state subsidies for the ballpark. The park will be used by the New Britain Rock Cats, who will move there and change their name to the Hartford Yard Goats.

During a three-hour public hearing in the Legislative Office Building, Rep. Rick Lopes, a Democrat, said that the bill would do nothing to help his hometown of New Britain.

“It smells like a rat,” Lopes said. “I’d have to say it smells like a Yard Goat.”

Things are already tense between New Britain and Hartford interests over the move of the team; this is just a manifestation of the tension.

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