Hartford dumps public financing plan for stadium

Artist rendering of the new baseball stadium in Hartford.

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)–It turns out the Rock Cats move from New Britain to Hartford is not a done deal, not by a long shot.

After getting a lot of heat from taxpayers, Hartford has dropped a $60 million public financing plan to build a stadium in the north side of the city’s downtown.

Now, private money will be needed to make it happen.

Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra’s “Field of Dreams” proposal to have the Double-A baseball team play Opening Day in 2016 in a new Hartford stadium became a nightmare in the weeks following the announcement.

The idea of city taxpayers paying for a $60 million ballpark when the city can barely make ends meet made no sense to a lot of residents.

City counselors immediately began feeling the heat from residents.

“Our city taxpayers should not bear the burden of $60 million in bonding,” City Council President Shawn Wooden said on June 19.

Segarra was joined five weeks ago by Wooden enthusiastically endorsing the idea. He’s now done a complete 180, calling for private funding for the entire venture.

In a statement this afternoon, the mayor said in part: “A new resolution will be submitted by August 11 and a public hearing will take place shortly after. We are committed to pay for the costs associated with the ballpark with private investment, consistent with the feedback from the community.”

The deal suffered a major blow when the developer of a supermarket complex near the stadium site pulled out saying supermarkets and baseball stadiums were not compatible.

One of the big winners in this was state Senator Eric Coleman (D-Hartford) who questioned the deal from the very start.

“If you stop any resident in this neighborhood or the north end in total, they would probably tell you that a grocery store is probably more needed than a baseball stadium,” Coleman said on June 26.

New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart, who was blindsided by Hartford’s move to take the team from her city, said that the Rock Cats could remain right where they are.

“The Rock Cats have until March to officially notify the city if they intend to leave,” Stewart said.

A new resolution will go to the city council in four weeks with more public comment on the new deal to follow.

Below is the letter Mayor Segarra sent to the Hartford City Council.

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