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Yard Goats Could Leave Hartford If Stadium Isn’t Done for 2017

Jeff Cohen
Yard Goats owner Josh Solomon (second from left) at the 2014 announcement that the New Britain Rock Cats would move to Hartford.

After missing his entire first season at Hartford’s Dunkin’ Donuts Park, Yard Goats owner Josh Solomon desperately wants the city to get the stadium finished for baseball in 2017.

But just in case, Solomon has apparently let Hartford officials know that he has options -- and one of them is to take his team elsewhere.

According to an email from the city’s top lawyer, Solomon informed him Monday that Hartford’s inability to complete the more than $60 million Dunkin’ Donuts Park is a breach of their development agreement and that sets the clock ticking.

That development agreement says that the city has six months to fix the problem. If it can’t, Solomon has the right to terminate his contract with the city, pack up his team, and go.

In an interview, an exasperated Solomon reiterated that he very much wants to stay in Hartford. But he can’t play his 2017 home games on the road.

“We need a home ballpark to play in,” said Solomon, who noted that he has obligations to major league baseball, minor league baseball, and the Colorado Rockies. “We missed all of 2016 and played on the road. We lost millions of dollars. We need a home ballpark to play in in 2017. I’m committed to the city of Hartford. I’m committed to our fans. I’m committed to our sponsors and I’m going to do everything in my power to ensure that we do.”

On Monday, WNPR asked the city whether Solomon had written to claim it was in default of its contractual obligations. On Tuesday, Corporation Counsel Howard Rifkin wrote that he had in fact gotten a letter from Solomon “citing those very same provisions of the contract.”

WNPR asked for Solomon’s letter. But by deadline Tuesday, Rifkin hadn’t yet provided it.

Credit Jeff Cohen
Jeff Cohen
Yard Goats owner Josh Solomon at an event announcing that Dunkin' Donuts would lend its name to Hartford's minor league stadium.

Solomon’s letter to the city is only the first development in the project this week. The second: the project’s developers at Centerplan and DoNo Hartford confirmed they are filing suit against Solomon and the team, alleging they interfered with Centerplan’s contractual relationships with the city and subcontractors.

The suit alleges the Yard Goats demanded changes to the design of the stadium that increased its cost and extended its schedule. It also alleges that Solomon and the team were behind the city’s effort to terminate the developer, involve its insurer, finish the stadium, and fight over the money later in court -- all while “the Ballclub received all the benefits of the underlying transaction when the team could play baseball in the state of the art facility and destroy Centerplan’s reputation.”

The suit said the ball club's actions "were intentional and they knew that their actions would interfere with the contractual relationships that the Plaintfifs had with the City and with each other."

Centerplan’s attorney, Ray Garcia, declined to comment, other than to say this of the stadium: “If they’d left us alone, it would be done by now.” Solomon also declined to comment on the suit.

And in a third development, Centerplan has asked a state court judge for an emergency hearing based on information it says it has that the city and the team were trying to cultivate relationships with the developer’s subcontractors on the stadium project. The city has filed a motion in opposition to that request.

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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