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Best of 2016: #3, Dunkin’ Donuts Park

Hartford Yard Goats

We end 2016 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, #3: Delays to the opening of Hartford’s Dunkin’ Donuts Park

Had everything gone as planned in 2016, the Hartford Yard Goats (Class AA; Eastern League) would have already played their first games at Dunkin’ Donuts Park. However, delays and cost issues for the downtown ballpark mounted, leaving the Yard Goats and their fans waiting for a 2017 opener.

The Yard Goats played their final season as the New Britain Rock Cats in 2015, with the expectation that Dunkin’ Donuts Park would open in 2016. By the end of 2015, there were signs that the ballpark might not be ready by Opening Day, and officials were reporting cost overruns on the project. In January, the Eastern League announced that the Yard Goats would play on the road through at least May 8. Shortly thereafter, the opening was scheduled for May 31, while Hartford, the Yard Goats, and the ballpark’s developers worked to address a $10.3 million funding shortfall.

From there, the problems continued. The May 17 deadline for a certificate occupancy was missed, preventing the May 31 opener from taking place. Ultimately, the project did not get back on track in time for the Yard Goats to play a single home game in 2016.

The city confirmed in June that it was cancelling its contract with developers Centerplan Cos. and DoNo, LLC, a decision that was revealed just days after officials voted to file a claim with the project’s insurer. Eventually, several legal disputes emerged, with perhaps the most prominent being the one that resulted from the terminated contract. The city said it was justified in the decision because of the missed deadlines, while Centerplan countered that the city and the Yard Goats were responsible for the delays.

For the Yard Goats, the delay took its toll. Aside from having to spend the whole season on the road, the team laid off four employees in June, and the Eastern League had to urge city officials in August to finish construction by the 2017 season or risk losing the team.

Eventually, the project got back on track. Arch Insurance took over the project in September, and eventually gave Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. the task of finishing the project. Construction resumed in October, about two months after an audit confirmed that the cost of Dunkin’ Donuts Park was approaching $72 million, above the original estimate of $56 million.

As the year winds down, it seems that the resumption of the construction process is yielding some positive results. Officials expressed hope last week that Dunkin’ Donuts Park will be ready for its 2017 opener, which is scheduled for April 13. Time will tell if this ends Hartford’s drawn out wait for the facility, but for the Yard Goats and their fans, good news concerning the opening of Dunkin’ Donuts park is a welcomed sight.

Previously in our Top Ten Stories of 2016 List:

#4: San Antonio Shuffle

#5: Columbia Fireflies

#6: Rebranding

#7: Oakland A’s Ballpark Quest

#8: Rays Continue Ballpark Search

#9: Spring Training Overhauls

#10: Savannah Bananas

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