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Dunked: Dunkin’ Donuts Park won’t open in 2016


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The Eastern League has made formal what was widely expected:  the Hartford Yard Goats will play no games in Hartford this year. Dunkin’ Donuts Park, the $63-million ballpark that sits nearly finished in downtown Hartford, will not open in 2016.  The Hartford Courant‘s report can be found here.

The former New Britain Rock Cats had originally planned to move into the facility on April 7 of this year. However, last winter it became apparent that the facility wouldn’t be completed by then, so the home opener was pushed back to May 31.  The revised plan called for the park to finished by May 17 so the team could get the park ready for baseball by the end of the month. When that failed to occur, the Eastern League decided to push back the opener indefinitely.

A series of charges and countercharges then began to fly between the developer of the park and Hartford’s mayor. A lawsuit was filed by the developer to force the city to permit them to complete the work. With the situation now embroiled in a court battle, the official announcement came Friday that there would be no baseball at the facility in 2016.

Not since the Winston-Salem Warthogs failed to open their new park (originally scheduled to debut in April 2009) for a whole year has there been a ballpark story of this magnitude. However, the Warthogs had the ability to return to their old park in Winston-Salem for the 2009 season because they weren’t changing markets. The Yard Goats, though, can’t do that. Even though their previous home is only nine miles away in New Britain, that ballpark recruited a new tenant, leaving the Yard Goats with nowhere to return to. Their games have largely been played at the visiting team’s home or in Norwich, CT. That makes Hartford’s situation even worse than Winston-Salem’s.

Of course, the Winston-Salem franchise (which cleverly changed its nickname to the Dash) opened BB&T Ballpark the next year, and it was named our 2010 Ballpark of the Year. To this day, they are always among the league leaders in attendance … so there can be happy endings to these sagas.

In-depth review of Fort Bragg Field


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My in-depth review of Fort Bragg Field is now available. It features 25 photos and all of my behind-the-scenes observations of the impressive ballpark that was built for only one game, then was dismantled. Click here to read it.

You’ll learn what Major League Baseball had to go through to get approval, and then to pull off this herculean undertaking at the world’s largest military base. You’ll read what soldiers at the installation thought, and what the game-day experience was for them. And you’ll learn why a chair was left empty.

And perhaps most importantly, you’ll come to understand why MLB did this (short answer: to show appreciation to our military). After all, they sunk millions of dollars into building a temporary ballpark and then uprooting a game that was supposed to be played in Atlanta, all so our servicemen and women and their families could attend a Major League game for free.

It’s a great story, one that I’m honored to be able to share with you, since I got to see it all myself.

After reading both pages, please leave a comment at the bottom of the second page with your thoughts on the event, the park or the review.

A peek at Petco


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San Diego, one of America’s prettiest cities (and the one with arguably the best weather), is hosting the MLB All Star Game for the first time since 1992. This time, though, it’s at Petco Park, which opened in 2004. Let’s take a look at this gorgeous ballpark.

The current home of the Padres is in downtown San Diego. Their previous home, called Jack Murphy Stadium until 1997 when it adopted its current name, Qualcomm Stadium, is located in Mission Valley, about nine miles northeast of Petco. Qualcomm is still the home of the NFL Chargers, at least through the 2016 season. The team can opt to join the Rams in Los Angeles after this year if they choose, which would leave the future of Qualcomm Stadium in doubt.

The future of baseball in San Diego is not in doubt, though. The Padres’ lease at Petco lasts until 2030 (or earlier if the original bonds are retired sooner). The team then has two options to extend their stay by five years.

HOK (now called Populous) was the architect for Petco, based on a design by Antoine Predock. Including the acquisition of land, it cost $453 million to build, of which $146 million came from the team and the rest from various city taxes and the selling of bonds.

And it’s significant to note that it was our Baseballparks.com Ballpark of the Year for 2004, even though Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia opened that same season.

The completion of the ballpark was delayed several times during its construction. One delay was over a court decision that invalidated a ballot initiative (that had already been approved by voters) and another was over the planned demolition of a building.  That structure was the Western Metal Supply Company building, which had been designated a historic landmark. The solution? Keep the building, and incorporate it into the design of the ballpark. Today, its southern corner acts as the left-field foul pole, and its interior has been converted to bars and group areas. Porches were added to its front to provide a wonderful view of the field, and its roof is a great party area. The photo below was taken from it.

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That building isn’t the only special feature of Petco. Its Park At The Park is a 2.7-acre grassy patch beyond the park’s outfield. It’s perfect for families with kids who’d rather play whiffle ball or run to and fro than watch the game. The parents can keep tabs on both the kids and game via the chunk of the field visible from the area and on a huge video screen.

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Coming to Fayetteville


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It appears Minor League Baseball is returning to Fayetteville, NC. This will require a new ballpark.

Several possible sites have been mentioned in the media, but a source close to the situation told me that almost certainly the new park will be constructed behind the Prince Charles Hotel. This majestic 91-year-old structure is currently empty, but investors bought it at auction and will spend about $10 million converting it into apartments or condominiums.

Parking lots (one of which is rarely utilized) occupies most of the area behind the hotel. It appears this is where the new ballpark will be constructed. This will place it quite close to the city’s district of quaint shops and restaurants on Hay Street.

This is also adjacent to the boarding platform for Fayetteville’s AMTRAK station. The photo above showing the ballpark site (snapped when I was in the area to cover the Fort Bragg Game on July 3rd) was taken from that platform.

While most of the details about the new park and the team that will play in it haven’t been made public, it appears the team will be in the high-A Carolina League and that the Astros will be heavily involved — perhaps owning the franchise that will play there. Since they don’t already possess a team at this level, they will be purchasing one, but not one in the Carolina League now.  It would be a franchise currently in the California League, one of two that would transfer from that high-A league to the Carolina League.  The Astros would like for this to happen by 2017, or 2018 at the latest.  The team that would be owned by the Astros will most likely play in another facility in the Fayetteville area temporarily while the new park is being designed and constructed. No, the temporary home will not be the ballpark used by MLB at nearby Fort Bragg. That facility is currently being disassembled. Read More

Rousing Success at Fort Bragg


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Happy Independence Day!

The Fort Bragg Game presented by Chevrolet was a rousing success.  The photo here shows the flyover by the choppers of the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade at the conclusion of the National Anthem.

To see the article I wrote for USA TODAY about the event, go here.

Be watching for our in-depth review of this fascinating one-time-use ballpark.  We’ll have much, much more to say about this park!

Fort Bragg event brings together “America’s game and those who defend America”


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This is part three of our series on the MLB game that will be played at Fort Bragg, NC on July 3rd

In terms of population, Fort Bragg in North Carolina is the largest military installation in the U.S. Not only is it home to the world-renown 82nd Airborne Division, its nearly 55,000 service members represent about 10% of the U.S. Army’s total. When you include their families, military retirees and Department of Defense civilians, you’re looking at a quarter of million people within its 500 square miles.

So when Major League Baseball wanted to honor America’s military, Fort Bragg was the logical place to do it. That’s why a regular-season game between the Braves and Marlins will take place there this Sunday evening, as part of the massive Fourth of July celebration on the base.

As described in the first two installments in our series on this special event, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association are footing the bill to build a temporary ballpark to hold this game … but that didn’t mean it was easy to gain the approval to do it.

Eric Hill is the Community Recreation Division Chief for the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation at Fort Bragg. Yes, titles and departments have long names in the Army. The ballgame on July 3rd falls under Hill’s jurisdiction.

Hill became aware of MLB’s desire to hold this game last August. At that point, quite a bit of legwork had already happened. After MLB broached the subject to the Department of Defense, it then “worked its way through the different channels and commands,” according to Hill. That included the IMCOM Commanding General, the Atlantic Region Director, Fort Bragg commanding General, and the Garrison Commander “and eventually the email ended up in my in-box.”

After discussions between Major League Baseball headquarters and the senior commander at Fort Bragg, “everyone saw the good in the gift. We told them we’re excited about it and wanted to pursue it.” Because the Army viewed the gesture as a “gift,” a formal process ensued where MLB had to make the offer formally, and then have it reviewed by numerous entities within the Department of Defense, finally reaching the Acting Secretary of the Army. Then the proposed construction process had to be reviewed by Congress.

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This is how the fairway of the abandoned golf course looked just before construction started in March. Photo courtesy of Populous.

If this seems like an inordinately large number of steps, Hill points out that “all of this happened in a pretty tight timeline from how we normally handle things.” With the approvals and permits in hand, ground was broken March 9, which started a construction timeline that drew to a close this week. That allows the game to be played on July 3rd, “which is what (MLB) had proposed from the beginning, to tie together our nation’s birthday, America’s game and those who defend America.”

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About the Author

Joe Mock

I surprised myself recently when I determined that I had visited 349 different parks where Major or affiliated Minor League teams are either current or former tenants. That's a lot of pro-baseball stadiums. Read More ❭❭