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Financial Issues Could Prevent Hartford Ballpark Opening This Season

Dunkin' Donuts Park

A decision by the Hartford Stadium Authority to seek insurance money for completion of Dunkin’ Donuts Park could lead to a shutdown of construction on the beleaguered facility and push back the ballpark’s opening to 2017.

The authority voted 4-0 to file a claim with the project’s insurer — or, in the parlance of the industry, calling the performance bond — by the end of business today. That was met with resistance from developer DoNo Hartford: principal Jason Rudnick says the move will mean a total shutdown of construction for six to nine months while the claim is investigated. That, of course, would push the ballpark opening to 2017.

The city says that construction can continue despite the filing of the claim. From the Hartford Courant:

“We have not terminated them,” [Mayor Luke] Bronin said. “They have an obligation to continue to work.”

[Authority Chairman I. Charles] Mathews said calling the bond now makes more sense than waiting for next Tuesday, when city officials are scheduled to meet with the developers’ insurer, Arch Insurance. By calling the bond, Mathews said, the insurer would move quickly to get the project back on track.

“We need some real supervision here in order to play baseball this year,” Mathews said.

Oz Griebel, another authority member, said, “The important thing is to make sure the city does not incur any additional cost, and that the stadium be completed as soon as possible, even if that means we don’t have it until 2017.”

This is the latest drama in the ongoing saga surrounding the construction of the new home of the Hartford Yard Goats (Class AA; Eastern League), a saga that has been the team play on the road for most of this season, with some “home” games at Dodd Stadium in Norwich, home of the Connecticut Tigers (short season A; NY-Penn League).

We are talking some serious money here for the $63-million facility. Missing a May 17 occupancy deadline means Yard Goats owner Josh Solomon is off the hook for a $2 million payment pledged to ensure a May 31 opening. The developer is being fined $15,000 every day the ballpark remains under construction. And with these potential delays, we could see the team play the remainder of the season on the road. Solomon is backing the city in this dispute:

“The Yard Goats have already lost 54 percent of their home season and are on the verge of losing the entire 2016 season,” Solomon said in a written statement Thursday afternoon. “This is causing great hardship not just for our team, but for our fans, sponsors and the hundreds of Hartford residents who were counting on jobs at the ballpark.

“We stand behind Mayor Bronin and the Stadium Authority and believe they will do everything in their power to hold the developer accountable and use the contractual agreements in place to provide the funds necessary to complete the ballpark so that the team can come home to Hartford and play ball at Dunkin’ Donuts Park,” Solomon said.

“We agree that calling the payment and performance bond is the only course of action available as the developer has shown no ability to meet the agreed upon schedules or effectively manage the project,” Solomon said.

Image of Dunkin’ Donuts Park from May 2 courtesy Hartford Yard Goats.

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