The city of Hartford is changing its plans for how to build, and pay for, a new minor league baseball stadium downtown. The mayor and the city council now plan to ask developers and private investors to weigh in.
Up to now, it was clear. The Hartford city council was considering a plan to borrow no more than $60 million to build a ballpark. By 2016, the New Britain Rock Cats would call Hartford home. Now, with pushback from the community and some on the council, the city has changed course.
Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra and Council President Shawn Wooden said they're going to consider other types of financing structures, too. Appearing on WNPR's Where We Live, Segarra said he plans to issue a request for proposals in the coming days not just for ballpark, but to develop the entire area commonly known as Downtown North.
"Within a week's time," Segarra said, "based on the response we've gotten from the private sector, in terms of interest in being partners, to solicit proposals for a public/private partnership that will afford us the opportunity to do what everyone really wants us to do: to have a stadium, to have the stadium built with private participation, [and to] lessen the burden on the taxpayers."
What would that look like? Segarra said there are lots of different models.
Here's how Thomas Deller, his development director, described it: "In a sense, we're transferring the burden of borrowing the money for a ballpark from the city to a private entity," he said. "They do that investment. We figure out a way, through the other development that happens, that debt gets paid. That it turns out as an asset to the city."
Shawn Wooden, president of the city council, said the details can be worked out. "The model, from my perspective, is less important than the commitment that we don't spend $60 million of city taxpayer dollars to get it done," he said.
We asked whether this grander plan would get in the way of an April 2016 opening day for the New Britain Rock Cats. Deller said it won't. Wooden said it's all subject to council approval.