Hartford has announced a 25-year deal to bring the New Britain Rock Cats to the capital city. The move, celebrated in one city, is not so popular in the other.
Hartford's leaders have long complained that its surrounding towns have stolen its businesses. One good example is the relocation of television station WFSB to Rocky Hill. Things are different now. Hartford has lured the minor league baseball team away from New Britain, and New Britain's mayor and congresswoman aren't happy about it.
At a press conference, Mayor Pedro Segarra said this isn't about robbing one city to pay another. As he tells it, the Rock Cats were intent on leaving New Britain.
"This team transfer is intended to prevent the Rock Cats from leaving the state of Connecticut," Segarra said. The mayor also said the Rock Cats started talking to the city over a year ago.
City Development Director Tom Deller said one thing was always clear. "They were going to leave Connecticut," he said, "and this was keeping the team in Connecticut. That was very important for the mayor. The mayor had to know that it was either here or somewhere else, and that somewhere else wasn't New Britain."
Josh Solomon, the managing partner of the Rock Cats, said his New Britain lease expires next year. He was looking at opportunities both in and out of state. "The ability to provide our fans with a state-of-the-art facility at the junction of two major highways in downtown Hartford was something we couldn't pass up," he said.
The stadium will be just north of I-84 in the city's North End, a neighborhood cut off from the rest of the city by the highway. Segarra said he hopes the new ballpark will stimulate more economic growth.
Before it can, it has to get built. The city will borrow no more than $60 million to pay for it. This is the same city that just considered selling its parking garages to make ends meet. At least one city leader said that borrowing money for this project will likely mean shelving others.
Still, Segarra said the stadium should be ready for the first pitch come April 2016. When it opens, the ballpark will seat close to 10,000 people. The city council has to approve the deal.
New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart responded on Wednesday to the Rock Cats news at a press event. Watch CT-N's footage of it below: