As the May 31 home opener for the Hartford Yard Goats (Class AA; Eastern League) draws closer, issues with the dimensions at Dunkin’ Donuts Park have put that date in doubt.
The specific problem facing construction is the placement of the right field wall, which is a mere 317 feet away from home plate. Standards call for either a deeper or taller fence, but tearing down and rebuilding that section of the wall would lead to changes to both the right field seating and concourse area, an expensive and time consuming project.
Keep in mind that a May 31 opener is not completely out of the question. However, the latest developments have made Eastern League president Joe McEacharn noncommittal about when Dunkin’ Donuts Park will be ready for play. In the meantime, a net is being installed above the right field wall, and it could create an interesting quirk. More from the AP:
Recently, the league determined the 317-foot distance from home plate to the right-field fence would make hitting a home run too easy. The issue is being fixed by placing a net on top of the wall and in front of the first tier of seats. Balls bouncing off the net will be in play, effectively raising the height of the fence from 12 feet to 25 feet.
“We actually think of this as an asset,” said Tim Restall, the Yard Goats’ general manager. “Because it provides another safe area for families to sit.”
The league signed off on the original stadium dimensions and decided changes were needed only after the walls were built and a street was relocated to accommodate the stadium. Moving the fence back would have meant eliminating seats, altering the concourse and creating new delays.
For the last several months, construction has been taking place over longer schedules to ensure that the ballpark will open by May 31. Until the news about the right field wall broke, the most recent developments included the installation of seats, structural work in the outfield area, and the placement of sod on the playing surface.
To this point, delays have forced the Yard Goats to play their entire schedule on the road.
Image of Dunkin’ Donuts Park courtesy of the Hartford Yard Goats.