The Hartford city council will vote on Tuesday night on the downtown development project that includes a $60 million subsidy for a New Britain Rock Cats minor-league baseball stadium, and council president Shawn Wooden has indicated that he has the votes for it to pass. (CAUTION: Don’t click on that link if you are sensitive to terrible, terrible web design.) The council is looking to add a few more amendments to the proposal, one of which is a bit worrisome:
The revisions would also include requiring a commitment from Minor League Baseball that it would not allow the Rock Cats to be transferred during the term of the lease, and that it assures the presence of a Double A minor league team at the Hartford stadium for at least 25 years.
So does this mean that the Rock Cats’ 25-year lease doesn’t require the team itself to commit to staying put? Or just that this would guard against MiLB up and pulling the franchise out from under Hartford? A “commitment” seems awfully not legally binding, but maybe the Hartford Courant’s choice of language is just as terrible as its web design.
If this project does get approved on Tuesday, it will still have to go back before the city planning and zoning commission for a special permit, the same planning and zoning commission that voted against the project last month. Either way, though, it’s an indication that local officials can still be swayed by everything-but-the-kitchen-sink projects: The stadium part of the plan, and the subsidies for it, are pretty much identical to the previous proposal that was withdrawn in the face of massive opposition, but tack on a bunch of private development next door, and suddenly everyone is focused on the special toy surprise and not on the stadium. We’ve seen it plenty before — and not just in stadiums — and if this goes ahead, we’re only likely to see more of it.