New Britain City Journal

New Britain's Weekly Online Newspaper

Feature The Sports Journal

Cat’s Out of the Bag

Fans across New Britain are angry and disappointed after hearing news that the New Britain Rock Cats plan to leave the City in 2016.

On Wednesday, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra announced that a deal had been made for a new stadium in Hartford.

But on Wednesday New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart said she still has questions on if Hartford has the financial stability to put up a new stadium.

“You must remember our new finance director came from Hartford so the questions are there. They are in a worse situation financially than we are,” said Stewart. “I certainly feel betrayed. I had heard this rumor several times since I took office. For the months I have been here they have had conversations and when I ask if rumors are true (3 times), I am told no. They’ve blatantly lied to me.”

Stewart said regardless of what happens with the Rock Cats, there will be baseball in New Britain in 2016.

“We will explore other options and are already doing so,” Stewart said. “I have still not been officially informed by Rock Cat ownership that they are officially gone. Essentially, they’ve said if they build it they will go.”

The brand new stadium in Hartford is said to seat over 9,000 people and is expected to be built on two parcels of land near Capital Preparatory Magnet School and near Radisson Hotel at 1214 Main St. The stadium will be over 220,000 square feet.

New Britain Stadium has about 6,000 seats.

The stadium would open in April 2016 and the team would sign a 25 year lease.

“The transfer is intended to prevent the Rock Cats from leaving the state of Connecticut,” said Segarra. “Approximately a year and one-half ago we were aware that the Rock Cats were looking for a different venue.”

Segarra spoke of the great economic impact this would have for Hartford as this deal will bring 600 full-time jobs and 900 construction jobs.

“It is an economic develop opportunity for our City that we could just not pass up,” said Segarra.

Mayor Stewart said residents have told her they will not go to Hartford to see a game.

“The Rock Cats management has never told me about concerns or conditions they wanted,” said Stewart. “It’s disingenuous not to give me a conversation before making a decision like this. We have been very attentive to this stadium because we love it.”

The AA team representing the Minnesota Twins has been in New Britain for 30 years.

On July 12, 2008, the Rock Cats established a franchise record for single game attendance. The crowd of 8,115 marked the first time the 8,000 mark was surpassed for a game at New Britain Stadium. This record was broken on June 27, 2009, with a crowd of 8,212. On July 10, 2013, the Rock Cats hosted the Eastern League All-Star Game at New Britain Stadium. The event drew 8,633 fans, shattering the previous single game attendance record. The Rock Cats reached the 8,000 mark once again on May 31, 2014 with a crowd of 8,079.

“As the President of the Greater NB Chamber of Commerce I’m shocked that the team did not reach out to anyone either here at the chamber or to the city officials if they were having such difficulty with their operations. Minor league baseball has been a presence in NB for the past 31 years and to be robbed of one of our community gems without a hint of discussion is heartbreaking at best and extremely unprofessional,” said Tim Stewart, chamber president and former mayor. “Working with the team over the past two months on the tax appeal with the Town of Berlin has produced positive results for the team, so for this to happen certainly shows the disingenuous nature of the ownership group. Our facility has produced record crowds and a wonderful experience for so many families in the Central CT region for so many years that I’m almost certain that we will not have a difficult time in attracting another tenant to our stadium.”

Alderman Carlo Carlozzi on his Facebook page said residents should boycott the team.

“I am very disappointed with the new owners of the Rock Cats. In the news conference owner Josh Solomon stated that they started to look around and approached Hartford 17 months ago. Wow!! New Britain has done nothing but bend over backwards for them and the community has built them into a very successful if not the most successful team in the league in terms of attendance,” said Carlozzi on his Facebook page. “And this is the thanks? Seventeen months ago they started to look around? At this point I think it is time to hit them in the place that they value the most – the pockets. BOYCOTT BOYCOTT BOYCOTT! Show them what it is like to have an empty stadium!! Any and all future requests from them for repairs from city taxpayer money should be met with a resounding NO!”

“I’m disappointed that one of our city’s assets and beloved minor league baseball team decided to leave for Hartford. I was not aware of any negotiations between the Mayor and the team’s owners, but I would hope that every attempt was made to keep them in our city,” said State Representative Robert Sanchez (25th). “New Britain has a lot to offer and has been a great home to the Rock Cats, but apparently, it wasn’t enough to keep them home.”