The Colorado Rockies' new Double-A affiliate Hartford Yard Goats will play their inaugural home opener at Dunkin' Donuts Park April 7, 2016, but it appears the new stadium's opening may be in jeopardy amid controversy between the city of Hartford and the ballpark's developer and construction company.
According to a story published Wednesday in the Hartford Courant, Jason S. Rudnick of DoNo, LLC development company sent a letter to Hartford's city council claiming that local government has breached its contract to build the $56 million ballpark, creating delays and exorbitant costs:
"[DoNo has] complete control over the design and construction of the Ballpark in order to maintain the $56 million budget for the Ballpark ... Instead the city and [Hartford Stadium Authority] completed the design of the Ballpark, delayed the assignment of the design to DoNo/[Centerplan Construction Co.] by 4 1/2 months and ultimately only provided DoNo/CCC with control of the design team for construction administration services..."
Rudnick stated in the letter that Centerplan Construction Company and DoNo, LLC are preparing an updated schedule to reflect additional costs incurred. Robert Landino, Centerplan's CEO, believes those cost overruns will be between $5 million and $10 million above the initial budget of the stadium.
That's a huge problem for the city of Hartford, whose council has only appropriated $56 million to the project. City council president Shawn Wooden told the Courant:
"In terms of the money, I know there's no support for providing any additional funding beyond $56 million that was authorized. Period. Staying within the authorized budget is critically important for what's been promised city taxpayers, and there is a contractual obligation for building to minimum specifications. You've got to build a stadium to these specifications."
While the budget squabbling is separate to putting a physical product on the field for Eastern League games by April, the matter could end up in court if a solution isn't found soon — and the Courant believes that could affect the stadium's opening.
For what it's worth, neither side may blink. Hartford Stadium Authority Chairman I. Charles Mathews was strongly on the side of the city council, telling that to the Courant in no uncertain terms:
"If anyone is in breach, it's DoNo. This letter is saying that they can't deliver a stadium on time or on budget."
Hartford's new mayor, Luke Bronin, took a more measured view of the situation but still stood firm against the developers and construction company:
"The outgoing administration devoted a huge amount of public resources to this project, and it's unacceptable that we are just learning about these problems four months before the ballpark is supposed to open. I'm committed to helping move this process forward and I will ask all parties to sit down with me early next week. Dueling press releases aren't going to solve any problems. The team's ownership and the developer both have an obligation to get to the table and do whatever it takes to bring the ballpark to completion."
While the city and developers continue to fight about the budget, though, the concern for the Yard Goats remains on April: there's a legitimate chance the stadium will not be ready in time for Opening Day. While the ball club is keeping the Eastern League and the Rockies' front office in Denver informed, the Courant reports there is no contingency plan in place should the stadium not be ready.
Obviously, the team is coming to Hartford from New Britain; the two cities are just 11 miles away, and it stands to reason that playing for a week in the Rock Cats' old stadium may be the logical, if not simple, alternative during construction. Nevertheless, that has not been publicly considered as of Saturday morning.
The Yard Goats open the season with a seven-game homestand beginning April 7 when they host the Richmond Flying Squirrels and New Hampshire Fisher Cats before the club heads on the road April 14-20.
We'll keep you updated on the Yard Goats' stadium issues and everything else related to the Rockies' minor league system as news becomes available. In the meantime, enjoy our profile of the man behind the Yard Goats' funny Twitter account.