The 2017 Ballpark of the Year

We are very pleased to announce that our 18th Annual Ballpark of the Year is Dunkin’ Donuts Park, the first-year home of the Hartford Yard Goats. (Official press release is here.)

Every year since 2000, has presented a plaque to the best new or renovated ballpark for that season. You can check out the list of winning parks and their architects here.

Hartford’s park wasn’t the most expensive baseball stadium that opened this year, or even the second most costly.  Those would be SunTrust Park in Atlanta ($672 million) and The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches ($148 million).

While Dunkin’ Donuts Park’s $71 million pricetag isn’t a paltry sum, it bought an awesome ballpark. To learn why the park won the award (and read what the team’s owner, the park’s architect, Hartford’s mayor, the President of Minor League Baseball and the Farm Director of the Rockies had to say about it), I urge you to check out the official press release on the award here.

To read our massive in-depth review of the park — written right after it opened in April — go to our article entitled Ending Hartford’s Losing Streak.

Going in-depth on Dunkin’ Donuts Park

The Hartford Yard Goats finally have their long-awaited ballpark, and our long-awaited analysis of Dunkin’ Donuts Park is ready, too.

We did a lot of background research on the ballpark — and believe me, with a year of delays and lawsuits, there was a lot to research — as well as attend the first two Yard Goats games there. In so doing, we took hundreds of photos and did countless interviews. The result is our in-depth review of the ballpark. Click here to see it.

The review includes quotes from the team’s owner, a local journalist who covered all of the back and forth of the construction fiasco last year, the park’s food-service manager, its architect and even the President of Minor League Baseball. Helping you visualize all of the park’s interesting features and personalities are four dozen photos that you won’t see anywhere else.

So check out our analysis and conclusions contained in the review (in brief: it’s one of the very best parks in Double-A Baseball), and leave a comment at the end of the second page and tell us what you think. As the park’s massive video board says, It’s Goat Time!

The photo shows the ballpark’s architect, Jonathan Cole of Pendulum on Opening Night, April 13, 2017

Yard Goats: Good Things Come To Those Who Wait

After a year of acrimony and delays, the Eastern League’s Hartford Yard Goats moved into their new home Thursday. Dunkin’ Donuts Park is on the northern edge of the city’s downtown, and should be the catalyst of further development in this blighted neighborhood.

We were there to chronicle the first game (if you follow us on Twitter, you’ll always get to see photos from the games we attend), and we will provide you with an extensive review and dozens of pictures shortly.  Be watching for it.

Minor League President Pat O’Conner was at the debut, and he was kind enough to sit down with me for an interview. While you’ll learn much more of what he had to say in our upcoming review, he made one comment that bears repeating here. “Remember the old adage: Good things come to those who wait. I think Hartford is going to get good things.”

Indeed, there is an enormous amount to like about this ballpark. We’re anxious to tell you the whole story about those “good things.”


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

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.

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.

Read More

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