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Would You Spend the Night in Hartford After a Rock Cats Game?

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Downtown Hartford as seen through a hotel room window.
"We're going to look very carefully at those numbers, and make sure that the city is protected."<br><em>Alexander Aponte</em>

City leaders say building a minor league baseball stadium in Hartford would spur economic development. Some of the numbers are based on ambitious assumptions. 

Whenever UConn's basketball teams play in downtown Hartford, between 10,000 and 12,000 people show up. Between 75 and 100 hotel rooms fill up as a result, according to the Capital Region Development Authority. Those are rooms for media, the traveling team, staff -- and few, if any, fans.

Now consider Rock Cats baseball. This year in New Britain, the team averages an audience of 3,800 people per game. A consultant said he thinks 7,000 will show up when the stadium is in Hartford, and of them, 700 will sleep in hotels.

Call that 300 to 400 rooms taken each game. That's four times as many hotel rooms as for an average UConn game, and UConn's attendance is much higher.

"I recognize that is a high number, 700," said Alexander Aponte, majority leader of the Hartford City Council. He said this is not the kind of detail he was given before he signed on to the plan.

"If we got the All-Star game," Aponte said, "I can guarantee you we would exceed that. If we got a team from Portland on a very cold, rainy weekend at the beginning of the season, where the Portland team doesn't have much hope -- and I'm not picking on them; I'm just using them as an example -- then you wouldn't have 700 rooms taken up."

Aponte said he thinks the council will eventually approve the ballpark idea. "Some critical questions are going to be asked," he said, "and we're going to look very carefully at those numbers, and make sure that the city is protected," he said.

Councilman Ken Kennedy said he also supports the park, but the numbers he was given in advance were not the same numbers he heard at the press conference. "I tell you those numbers are a little high," he said.  "I just realize that those numbers are not necessarily, from my point of view, the numbers on which I would base my analysis."

A public hearing is scheduled for July 21.

Jeff Cohen started in newspapers in 2001 and joined Connecticut Public in 2010, where he worked as a reporter and fill-in host. In 2017, he was named news director. Then, in 2022, he became a senior enterprise reporter.

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