HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) New Britain’s minor league baseball announced plans June 4 to move about 15 mi. north to Hartford, where the capital city plans to build it a $60 million stadium.
Josh Solomon, the managing partner of the Double-A Rock Cats and Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra held a news conference on the steps of Hartford City Hall to provide details of the agreement, which calls for an almost 10,000-seat stadium to be ready in time for opening day in 2016.
The stadium is planned for Main Street, just north of Hartford’s downtown, near the intersection of Interstates 91 and 84. The team has agreed to sign a 25-year lease, officials said.
“The ability to provide our fans with a state-of-the art facility at the junction of two major highways in downtown Hartford was something we couldn’t pass up,” Solomon said.
Segarra said the city has been working on the deal for about 18 months, but it seemed to come as a surprise to New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart.
Stewart told reporters June 3 that she had been assured the team did not plan to move. She tweeted June 6 that she would lead a fight to keep the Minnesota Twins affiliate in her city, which has had a minor league team since 1983. She did not immediately return calls and e-mails seeking comment.
The Rock Cats drew more than 307,000 fans to their 6,100-seat stadium in New Britain last year, ranking sixth in the 12-team Eastern League.
The team’s lease at New Britain stadium runs out in 2015, and Solomon said owners had been looking for a new home both within and outside of Connecticut. He declined to comment on reports the team also had been negotiating with officials in Springfield, Mass.
“This team transfer is intended to prevent the Rock Cats from leaving the state of Connecticut,” Segarra said.
Segarra said the stadium has the support of city council and will be built primarily with city bonding money. He said the city owns most of the land involved and has agreed to buy an additional parcel for $1.7 million. He said construction would involve shifting a section of Trumbull Street.
The city does not plan to add any additional parking and has been studying how to schedule games to avoid creating major traffic problems, he said.
Segarra estimated the new stadium would create 600 full-time jobs and 900 construction jobs, while generating about $2 million in annual revenue for Hartford.
He said his office has created a checklist of approvals it will need before construction can begin and is confident it can meet the team’s timetable.
Solomon would not say what the team would do if the stadium is not ready by April 2016.
“We’re going to get it done on time,” he said.
Segarra said he anticipates other tenants using the facility, and said he hopes to get the state’s “collegiate community” involved.