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It's Official, If Not a Surprise: Yard Goats to Miss Regular Season In Hartford

Jeff Cohen
Yard Goats players take the field on a tour a few weeks back. This may be the most time they get in Hartford's stadium all year.

The Hartford Yard Goats say they won’t play a single regular season game in the city for which the team is named, making official what has been all but certain for weeks. 

The Yard Goats -- who left their New Britain home for a new ballpark in the state’s capital city -- said they will play the rest of their inaugural season’s home games in states not named Connecticut.

“These final changes are being made due to the delayed availability of Dunkin’ Donuts Park,” the Eastern League of Professional Baseball said in a press release.

By delayed availability, the team is referring to the complete stoppage of work at the ballpark just north of Hartford’s downtown. The plan was to play ball there back on opening day in April, but it became clear in January that the publicly-funded more than $60 million stadium was both late and over budget.

“We are extremely disappointed that we won’t have baseball in Hartford this season,” said Tim Restall, the team’s general manager. But he’s looking forward to the day when the first pitch will eventually be thrown. “Obviously it’s going to take a little longer than we all hoped for, but that ballpark will open and it will be great for the city.”

The city blames the developers for the delay, arguing that they were in over their heads and unable to meet even their own deadlines; the developers say the city is to blame because of repeated change order requests that added to both the cost and schedule of the ballpark. The loser of the blame game will most likely be named by an arbitrator, a mediator, or a state court judge.

Weeks ago, the city effectively kicked the stadium’s developers -- Centerplan Companies and DoNo Hartford, LLC -- off the job by notifying their surety company that they were in default of their contract. Work stopped at the site as the surety, Arch Insurance, did its due diligence to figure out the best way to get the stadium done. That work is ongoing and the city has provided no updates this week. Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, who never liked the idea of the city-funded ballpark, has said he won’t put another dime towards it.

Meanwhile, the developers at Centerplan and DoNo have filed suit against the city, asking a judge to force Hartford to reverse course. A hearing on that isn’t scheduled until mid-August. The rest of the team’s games will be played in New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, and Maryland. Yard Goats season ticket holders will be able to attend all of the games with complimentary tickets courtesy of the team.

The city’s Hartford Stadium Authority borrowed $56 million to build the stadium, but that turned out not to be enough. In January, the team, the developers and the city agreed to fund an additional $10 million for the project. Now, the city has apparently $4 million left in the bank to spend -- and Landino says the project needs at least another $4 million on top of that to be completed.

The Eastern League apparently hasn’t ruled out playing postseason ball in Hartford should the Yard Goats make the playoffs. Restall concedes it’s a bit of stretch to think the stadium will be ready in time. But, should it be, his team would come to city to play.

“If we can play one baseball game in Hartford this year, we would play baseball game in Hartford,” Restall said.

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said talks with Arch are both ongoing and productive, but they've yet to produce a resolution. 

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