Council Approves New Baseball Team
The Common Council Wednesday night approved a tentative lease of New Britain Stadium that was negotiated by Mayor Erin E. Stewart and signed on Monday by the Mayor and Frank Boulton, founder of the Atlantic League.
Once approved, the League intends to relocate an existing Atlantic League franchise to New Britain for the 2016 season.
“We’ve built nine stadiums and most of them in the Atlantic League includes the building of a ballpark,” said Joe Klein, Executive Director of the Atlantic League and former general manager of the Texas Rangers, Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers. “You have a wonderful ballpark here. It was a park that wasn’t going to be used. We are looking for change to better ourselves. The match really came together in an extraordinary short time. I give everybody an A plus for their drive and initiative for putting the deal together.”
Klein said now it is up to the board of directors of the league to meet after the season – which is presently in playoffs – in order to release all the details.
“The fact is New Britain will have baseball,” said Klein.
Under the agreement the annual rent for the first five years of the lease will be $150,000. The Rock Cats, who are planning to be in Hartford as the Yard Goats in 2016, paid the city about $101,600 annually. Also under the agreement, the annual rent for the sixth through 10th year would be $160,000, and will be $170,000 for the 11th through 15th years.
“The agreement calls for the Atlantic League team to have control of parking.,” said John Healey, the Mayor’s Chief of Staff.
In previous years, the city netted a little under $100,000 after expenses from parking. Under the agreement, the league cannot charge more than $7 per vehicle for the 2016 and 2017 seasons and can charge a maximum of $10 for the 2018 through 2020 seasons.
“If that is what it takes to get them here, it is worth it,” said Healey. “The Atlantic League is an independent league and has to make sure each team is viable and it pays the players and office staff. Parking is key to whole deal.”
Aldermen voted 15-0 in favor of the deal Wednesday night.
“I think that the agreement before us is a fair one,” said Alderman Suzanne Bielinski. “I am particularly pleased that we will not miss a beat with having a baseball team at our stadium. Those that come to New Britain baseball will continue to have that tradition without all the traffic hassle.”
“I can’t believe we are here a couple months from losing our former tenants back with baseball,” said Alderman Jamie Giantonio. “This is just as good, if not better, than the product that has been on the field the last three years.”
One hundred baseball players that play in the Atlantic League over the past seven years were in the major leagues. About 80 players have gone from the Atlantic League to the Major Leagues.
“For about a year I have been doing a real slow burn. I boycotted going to the Rock Cats because of how we were treated. That was the way it was for me,” said Alderman Daniel Salerno.
At that point Mayor Stewart interjected asking Salerno to the delight of the crowd, “Who are the Rock Cats?”
Salerno replied, “they have something to do with goats.”
He continued, “I am so pleased that we have been able to move into next year as if nothing has happened. This is going to be a great opportunity. This will be even better because it will be more family friendly. It is ours rather than someone else’s franchise.”
“I am so happy our City has a positive form of entertainment for families,” added Alderman Robert Smedley.
After the vote, the crowd gave a big round of applause and a standing ovation.
The new team will have it’s opening day in New Britain during the third week of April.