Hartford council votes tonight on $56m for stadium in exchange for promised new buildings, because that always works

Tonight is the Hartford city council vote on the New Britain Rock Cats stadium-and-other-crap project, which means it’s time for frequently asked questions!

How much will this cost Hartford taxpayers? Starting with a hard one, eh? The Rock Cats owners would actually be building the stadium, but then paying for it by leasing it to the city for $4.67 million a year, and then paying the city back $500,000 a year in rent. Plus the developers would be getting a bunch of land for free. Public estimates have generally put this at $60 million in cash value, though without attempting to factor in how much the free land is worth.

Is that definitely it? Yes, now that the council has decided to establish a hard cap on construction costs of $56 million. Except that the council has also ruled that the stadium will have to be built with union labor, which the developer insists will add 10% to the cost. That seems high (stadiums are pretty materials-intensive, not labor-intensive), but regardless, it does raise the question of who will pay for cost overruns if they can’t be made up for by using cheaper bathroom tile, which honest to god is what the developer suggested for saving money.

What does Hartford get in return?More than 1,000 jobs“! Not from the stadium, of course, but from the other crap, including a brewery, office towers, residential buildings, and a space elevator. (Possibly not the space elevator.) If all of that gets built, which will totally definitely happen, because development around a sports venue never just stalls completely without warning. Everyone involved seems to agree that the council needs to put in some kind of contractual requirement that all the bits that the city wants will actually get built — ideally, by cutting off public stadium payments if they’re not — but the council doesn’t seem to be planning on actually doing that, not tonight, anyway.

If the council approves this, is it definitely happening? The city planning and zoning commission, which already voted against this project once for going against the city’s downtown development plans, has to sign off on a special zoning permit for it, and could still say no. What they’ll do is anyone’s guess — anyone’s, I guess, aside from the developers’ lobbyists who are no doubt following the commission members around Hartford even as I type this.


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