We end 2015 with a countdown of the 10 biggest stories of the year on Ballpark Digest, as chosen by editors and partially based on page views. Today, #10 on the list: the move of the New Britain Rock Cats and the emergence of the Hartford Yard Goats and Dunkin’ Donuts Park.
Owners of the New Britain Rock Cats (Class AA; Eastern League) spent 2014 working on a plan for a new downtown Hartford ballpark plan. In October 2014, the Hartford City Council approved a $350-million development project that included the new ballpark, setting the wheels in motion for a 2016 opening.
That 2016 opening is still on track. But everything else came under review in 2015, as the team dealt with a totally new ballpark financing plan enacted in January, followed by a groundbreaking in February.
With the heavy lifting out of the way, the team could then focus on tasks that could be interpreted as more fun: unveilng the new Hartford team name and the sale of ballpark naming rights.
First, the new moniker: the Hartford Yard Goats, which brought a rail theme to the team. From our story on the announcement:
A yard goat, per the team, is a workhorse locomotive moving and shuffling cars from track to track in the rail yard keeping things in order. According to the team’s press release, “a Minor League Baseball player is like that humble Yard Goat, not a glamorous job but working hard day in and day out away from the big city lights to assure that the Major League affiliate is kept on track.”
“We wanted a name that would identify our organization as family friendly and appeal to kids as well as baseball fans throughout the region,” said Team Owner Josh Solomon. “The Hartford Yard Goats will create new fan experience opportunities for everyone and build a brand that embodies the fun product that minor league baseball teams are all about.”
It was an edgy choice — but we suspect it will do well.
Next came the naming rights — Dunkin’ Donuts Park:
The plans for Dunkin’ Donuts Park will include: prominent Signage at the main entrance of the ballpark; a large, custom and unique sign display atop the gigantic video board that is interactive with game events; and Dunkin’ Donuts logo mowed into the outfield grass. Additionally, Dunkin’ Donuts will be the exclusive coffee provider for the Hartford Yard Goats.
“Baseball is America’s favorite pastime, and Dunkin’ Donuts is America’s favorite coffee, so bringing the two together in Hartford was a natural fit for us,” said Molly Loh, Dunkin’ Donuts Field Marketing Manager for Connecticut. “We are excited for the future of Dunkin’ Donuts Park and looking forward to a great partnership with the Hartford Yard Goats and the City of Hartford, while we bring family fun to baseball fans in Connecticut.”
The Hartford Yard Goats are also poised to be one of the big stories of 2016: the new ballpark is set to open in April.