Tuesday was a landmark day in Hartford, where construction of Dunkin’ Donuts Park, once and future home of the Hartford Yard Goats (Class AA; Eastern League), began again in anticipation of a 2017 opening.
It had been 130 days since ballpark construction was shut down by the city, the result of a disagreement between Hartford officials and the development team over the completion schedule and who would pay for it. When construction was shut down, there were some serious disagreements over the status of the construction (developers Centerplan Construction Co. and DoNo Hartford said they were very close to completion; Hartford Stadium Authority and the city claimed otherwise, and besides, two hard deadlines had been blown out of the water). Those disagreements will undoubtedly be resolved in a courtroom.
But, for now, we have a solution that costs Hartford taxpayers—who already financed the $71-million facility—nothing more. Covering the cost of completing the ballpark is Arch Insurance, which brought in Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. to complete the project.
Could this whole mess been avoided? Of course. The deadline to finish the ballpark was incredibly optimistic from the beginning, and the smarter move would have been to keep the team in New Britain for the 2016 season, allowing Dunkin’ Donuts Park to be completed at a more realistic pace. And all involved could have done a much better job at tracking construction progress: by the time everyone realized an April 2016 opening date was a pipe dream, it was far too late to get the project back on track.
What’s most distressing is that all involved—Yard Goats team owner Josh Solomon, the city, even the Eastern League—failed to learn from past instances where a ballpark failed to open on time. Most notably in recent years: Southwest University Park, home of the El Paso Chihuahuas (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), opened late. In that case, there was a clear backup plan, with the team beginning the season in Tucson, where they had played in previous years as the Tucson Padres. Again, not an ideal situation, but one that addressed the problems with a minimum of fuss. If anything, the circumstances surrounding Dunkin’ Donuts Park should be a prime example of what not to do when planning a new ballpark.
Image, posted September 30, courtesy Hartford Yard Goats.
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