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.