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Field being left behind after Fort Bragg game: “something we’re really proud of”

Through the generosity of Major League Baseball and the Players Association, a regular-season game will be played in a ballpark in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. That barely scratches the surface of this story, though.

The game, which will be played on the eve of Independence Day, is a first for a variety of reasons. Not only is it the first time an MLB game has been played on an active military base, it’s also the first time a ballpark is being built simply for a single game — and then will be disassembled immediately afterwards. All that will be left behind is the playing field, which will then be used by the base’s recreation program.

Since I’ll be writing about this for USA Today Sports Weekly, I’m conducting interviews with some of the key people making this unique experience happen. As we get closer to the event, we will bring you their thoughts — from MLB (where the idea originated) to the designer of the one-time-use ballpark to the key figure at Fort Bragg coordinating the event. Then follow us on Twitter the night of the game to see what it all looks like.

Let’s start with Tony Petitti, the Chief Operating Officer of Major League Baseball.

Petitti said that the original idea for this game grew out of brainstorming in MLB headquarters. “Our Special Events, Marketing and Communications Departments had been kicking around ideas of bringing the game to places where they don’t traditionally get to see the game,” he explained. A number of locations were suggested, but one stood out: Fort Bragg. They got in touch with officials at the base as well as other contacts within the Department of Defense. “We received a reaction of ‘Wow, this is out of the blue, but really exciting!’ When we (then) talked to the Players Association, they immediately saw the value in this and wanted to partner with us to make this happen.” Read More

GreenJackets looking to move to North Augusta

In much the same way that North Little Rock was able to lure the Arkansas Travelers from their longtime home in Little Rock with a new riverfront park, the city of North Augusta appears set to do the same thing with the Augusta GreenJackets.

North Augusta is close to completing plans on an ambitious riverfront development called Project Jackson. It will include office space, conference center, restaurants, apartments, senior center and at its heart, a new ballpark for the South Atlantic League GreenJackets.  The City plans to invest about $61 million in the project in hopes that private investment will top $170 million.

City officials estimate that once construction begins, it will take 14 months to complete.  They optimistically stated that baseball could be played in the new stadium by the 4th of July in 2017.

Details are in the Augusta Chronicle.

A look at Hartford’s Dunkin’ Donuts Park

UPDATE June 7:   And now the you-know-what has hit the fan. Following accusations by Yard Goats ownership and Hartford’s mayor and counter-accusations by the head of the developer building Dunkin’ Donuts Park, it came to a head on June 6. That’s when officials from the City of Hartford ordered that construction work stop on the site so that an investigation could be conducted to determine who is at fault and what remains to be completed.  City officials indicated that they prefer that the developers, Centerplan Companies and DoNo Hartford LLC, be fired and a new construction firm be named.

On June 7, city officials toured the site. They found several dozen workers within the stadium (some securing building materials so work could be shut down, while others were busy at their normal tasks, saying their supervisors told them to keep working). The City then ordered that all workers leave and the facility be locked down.

The investigation by the insurance company on the project, Arch Insurance, could take several weeks, during which no work will be done. They will then determine how and by whom the rest of the work should be completed. The stoppage could mean that no baseball will be played at Dunkin’ Donuts Park this season, as the team and the Eastern League haven’t announced how the remainder of the Yard Goats’ schedule will be handled.  (Details in the Hartford Courant.  They aptly called this a “construction fiasco.”)

Read on for our look at the ballpark on the day on which it was supposed to open (May 31).


When word came down that the developer of Dunkin’ Donuts Park was going to miss the already delayed deadline to deliver the ballpark two weeks ago — meaning the opener wasn’t going to be May 31 (or anywhere close to it) — I decided to keep my flight and hotel reservations anyway. I’d booked a lot of other things on this roadtrip around the opener, and I didn’t want to cancel them. Besides, I wanted to see the new park with my own two eyes.

So I’m in Hartford now, even though the Yard Goats aren’t playing here. That didn’t stop me from scrutinizing the ballpark from the outside, as I peered through fences and gates trying to get a look at exactly what’s not finished.

My unfortunate conclusions are these: even now, two weeks after the missed deadline to turn over a “substantially complete” ballpark to the team, it is still woefully unfinished; while I’m sure completing the park quickly is a high priority for all parties involved in the project, you sure couldn’t tell it today.  I know it’s Memorial Day, but no work — at all — was being done on the park.  No seven-days-a week-no-matter-what was going on.

I’d read in the Hartford Courant (which just ran an excellent editorial on the mess, by the way) that it’s a union holiday, so work wasn’t going to be done … but if the developer were committed to completing the park on the first possible date, they would’ve found a way to keep working.  I mean, what if they would’ve kept the opening date of tomorrow (the 31st) and there were still last-minute things to be completed?  Would no one have been working today?

This is awful, because the team and the fans of Hartford deserve better. It appears that it is a facility with a wonderful design, and when it’s finally done (whatever month or, if lawsuits start flying, year that is), it will serve the community very well for decades to come.  But it’s just not ready.

Let’s take a look at the current state of Dunkin’ Donuts Park:

No tickets are being sold here. This is on the main entry plaza at the corner of Main Street and Trumbull Street.

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Indy park could become home for affiliated ball

UPDATE MAY 27:  Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time!  The proposed sale of the Batavia Muckdogs is off. It would have created the first pro baseball team to have majority Black ownership, but the deal fell through because other entities (perhaps the Orioles, the Eastern League or the Carolina League — or all three) refused to waive their territorial rights to Waldorf, Maryland, which is where the franchise would’ve moved.

The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle newspaper has the full report.


ORIGINAL REPORT:  It’s been a common occurrence across the baseball landscape to have a franchise in an independent league take up residence in a ballpark vacated by affiliated Minor League Baseball.  Many notable parks have been saved from the wrecking ball because an indy team became a tenant.

The tables could turn, because a New York Penn League (NYPL) club could be moving to an indy park. The Batavia Muckdogs, who’ve had a for-sale sign out for many years, could be sold to a group of investors based in Washington, D.C. According to Baseball America, these prospective owners would like to move the Muckdogs to Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf, currently the home of the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the independent Atlantic League. Read More

Rangers could be in new park by 2021

UPDATE 2:21 p.m. May 20, 2016  The announcement has been made.  Rangers owner Ray Davis and Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams held a joint press conference today at Arlington City Hall to announce a new retractable-roof ballpark will be built for the Rangers. Voters will be asked in November to approve the use of a half-cent sales tax, as well as taxes on hotels and rental cars, to build the stadium. The City’s outlay will be capped at $500 million, with the team paying the rest.  If voters approve the measure, construction could start as soon as next year, meaning the team could be playing in air-conditioned comfort as soon as 2021.

Davis and Williams also announced the location of the new stadium.  It will be built adjacent to Globe Life Park, in what is now parking lots A and B.  The site of the current park will be redeveloped as part of the already-approved entertainment district.  Here are details in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

(Image shows three Arlington landmarks:  a roller coaster from Six Flags theme park, Globe Life Park and in the distance, the retractable roof of AT&T Stadium)

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Another delay in Hartford means more games in Norwich

Dunkin’ Donuts Park in downtown Hartford was scheduled to open April 7.  Last winter, it was obvious that deadline wasn’t going to be met, so Opening Day was pushed back to May 31, with the requirement that the ballpark be “substantially complete” two weeks before that date.

With restrooms unfinished, a key elevator not complete, concession stands not ready to prepare food and a significant portion of protective railing needing to be replaced, the park failed to meet the definition of “substantially complete.” As a consequence, the Eastern League announced today that the Hartford Yard Goats will have to play an additional ten “home” games away from Connecticut’s capital city.

Their temporary home will continue to be Dodd Stadium (see photo), which is about a 45-minute drive away in Norwich, CT.   Read More