The New Britain Rock Cats want to move to Hartford, and that deal is still in the works. For now, their home is in New Britain, and they're on the road to eviction.
A few months ago, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra announced that he would use taxpayer money to fund a new minor league baseball stadium for the Rock Cats. Facing pushback, he then decided to include more private money in the deal. The goal is to have a stadium open for baseball in April 2016.
Meanwhile, the Rock Cats have a lease to play ball in New Britain, and they're supposed to pay about $164,000 in taxes which were due on July 1. The problem is they haven't paid. That means the Rock Cats are in default of their lease. John Healey is chief of staff to New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart.
"We went through the month of July, our attorneys and our tax collection office made the Rock Cats very aware that this bill was due, that they were responsible for it, and we were getting, again, the sounds of silence," he said.
Here's where it gets interesting. The Rock Cats have one more year on their New Britain lease. As long as they have that lease, they have the right to extend it and return to New Britain should the deal to move to Hartford not materialize.
"It was always very clear to us in New Britain that the existing lease...provides a pretty nice security blanket for the Rock Cats," Healey said. "Should something happen with the Hartford project, or wherever they may end up, they'd be assured they'd be able to continue here in New Britain. By putting the entire lease into default, they are putting their security blanket in jeopardy."
Healey said the team has until September 1 to fix the situation. Meanwhile, he said the Rock Cats have filed several motions in court to try and change the tax bill that's due and stop the proceedings.
"Only now, after their tax bill has become delinquent and that the city has signaled that we are holding them in default, and that their lease for their current home is now in jeopardy, only then did they decide that they would now like to get involved in this case," he said.
The Rock Cats' general manager did not return a call for comment.