Hartford fires Yard Goats developer, stadium opening delayed till 2017, everyone sad and angry

Call off the wagering on when the Hartford Yard Goats home opener will finally take place this summer, because it’s now pretty clear it won’t: Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin announced at a news conference yesterday afternoon that he’s terminated developers DoNo Hartford LLC and Centerplan Cos., padlocking the stadium construction site and leaving it up to the city’s insurers to determine how to finish construction.

Bronin said the move was touched off by an email Friday from the developers, DoNo Hartford LLC and Centerplan Cos., that estimated it would take 60 days or more before the stadium would meet city building codes.

“At that point, we simply lost confidence in DoNo and Centerplan’s capacity to complete this project and their capacity to provide a schedule that is reliable and sound,” Bronin said.

Centerplan president Jason Rudnick retorted that the developers had hoped the “honesty and transparency” of admitting that the stadium was still at least two months away from completion, just a week after insisting it was “95-97% complete,” would help start a conversation about finishing it faster, and charged Bronin with “irresponsible governance.” Rudnick also complained that the city was late in notifying the developer that it had violated certain building codes like safety railings, something Bronin called “just patently absurd.”

This all just makes the Hartford stadium mess even uglier — insurer Arch Insurance now needs to decide who to hire to finish the project, and hopefully will pick someone who doesn’t gripe about having to obey building codes. The Yard Goats should be able to play in their new home stadium in 2017, anyway. The bigger problem now could be that Centerplan is supposed to build housing, a hotel, a grocery store, and restaurant space around the ballpark, and Centerplan and the city are now busy calling each other names; Bronin went so far as to say that “Obviously, [the stadium termination] raises some big questions about whether they have the capacity to perform on the rest of that project.” Given that according to the city’s own economic consultant, the ancillary development is the only part of the deal that is supposed to have any economic benefits for Hartford, this is very extremely bad.

It’s tempting to say that Bronin is making the best of a bad deal that former mayor Pedro Segarra saddled him with, and he is, but then Bronin also added a $5.5 million bailout of the stadium deal back in January in order to get the stadium finished on time, which hasn’t worked out so well at all. Absolutely nobody is covered with glory here, but the worst part of the deal remains Segarra’s (and the Hartford city council’s) notion to spend $60 million on a minor-league baseball stadium in the first place, because economic impact!!1! The Yard Goats will call Hartford home eventually, but the legacy of that decision will remain for a long, long time.

UPDATE: Despite being told by the city to go home, several subcontractors are still on the stadium site, working away in the hopes that maybe someday they’ll get paid. This is the best, saddest story ever.


10 comments on “Hartford fires Yard Goats developer, stadium opening delayed till 2017, everyone sad and angry

  1. I’ve been following this story but nowhere have I seen the central question answered: What on earth put this project that far behind schedule?

    To be this far behind you’d usually expect there to have been some significant setback but I haven’t seen anything pinpointed. They broke ground in Feb. 2015 and delays first got mentioned in December. They had 6 months to pick up the pace (close to half the original budgeted time of the project) and still didn’t get anywhere. From the pictures I have seen, it looks like the major structure has been there for quite sometime. I can’t figure out why they never managed to make up any time.

  2. The fired developer is blaming the city and the team claiming there were tons of change orders that slowed things down. The city says most all the changes were actually orders to fix work that didn’t pass building inspections.

    Two examples the developer provided were adding 50 additional TVs and building a barn-style door for a luxury suite. They’re months behind, at least $10 million over budget. Somehow, I doubt the barn door took them months to put together.

  3. Why am I not surprised. Failure is Connecticut’s middle name, as usually they promise jobs and excitement with the minor league team and construction of the ball park yet this is NOT what Hartford needs. We need smart politicians and sold companies coming into Connecticut.

    This stunk from the begin…. Pedro was an idiot and the same goes for the Malloy administration!

  4. Frequently in situations like this the developers are chosen on the basis of who tells the prettiest story and makes the lowest bid, not who can actually get the job done. Political connections can also matter a lot.

    • Yup. Built in ’96, and was absolutely perfectly acceptable for the Double-A level. The independent Atlantic League wasted no time moving in there this year, and how has the market to itself.

  5. Mr. Rudnick of Centerplan seems to be a master at providing usable quotes for the media.

    From WSFB-DT (Channel 3, Eyewitness News),

    “How are we so supposed to finish a ballpark by May 17th when we are receiving change directives on the 30th of May. It’s simple math. It’s not possible.”

    http://www.wfsb.com/story/32167596/demobilizing-effort-begins-at-dunkin-donuts-park-in-hartford#ixzz4AzVg4t6I

    Well, sure, it is simple math. If Centerplan had finished the ballpark on May 17th, then the city couldn’t have made any changes on May 30th.

    Hopefully, Mr. Rudnick will continue to provide quotes. He’s pretty close to needing a top 10 list.

    According to other news stories, The City of Hartford sent a letter to Centerplan at 5PM yesterday to stop work and vacate the site.

    Interestingly, the construction work contract was signed without a bid. From the Hartford Courant,

    ‘In its “waiver of competitive requirement” form, city officials wrote: “To meet a spring 2016 opening day as well as contractual and leasing agreements, an extremely aggressive schedule was necessary. … If the project is bid publically (advertised) for three weeks and no bids or no qualified bids are received, this delay in procurement would negatively impact the planned schedule and facility opening date.”‘

    http://www.courant.com/community/hartford/hc-hartford-yard-goats-road-work-1016-20151015-story.html

    The CEO of Centerplan is Robert Landino. Mr. Landino was a member of the Connecticut House of Representatives and a Selectman (local representative). I’m sure that had nothing to do with the lack of bidding. Absolutely nothing…

    http://www.fieldofschemes.com/2016/06/07/11182/hartford-fires-yard-goats-developer-stadium-opening-delayed-till-2017-everyone-sad-and-angry/#comments

    Fascinating story. When does the Grand Jury get involved?

    Andy

  6. Copied the wrong link for the last story. The correct link is,

    http://www.courant.com/sports/baseball/hc-jacobs-column-yardgoats-0112-20160111-column.html

  7. Re: “The Yard Goats should be able to play in their new home stadium in 2017, anyway.”

    I’m really not sure about that. This has been a mismanaged debacle almost from the moment it was announced. It’s hard to have any confidence in anything about it, at this point. No one involved, who has any ability to get the job finished, has much credibility any more. What’s more, lawsuits are sure to erupt, and given the snails’ pace of the legal sysytem, we might not see baseball in Hartford until years after 2018, 2019, 2020 … or, perhaps, never.

    Re: “The bigger problem now could be that Centerplan is supposed to build housing, a hotel, a grocery store, and restaurant space around the ballpark …”

    That’s true, and it boggles the mind that they’ve virtually destroyed any chance they might be allowed to do all of that. I suspect their ability to bid for other work, elsewhere, will be limited too, if not non-existent. Centerplan’s reistance, petulance and name-calling is, as I see it, counter-productive. All by itself, Bob Landino’s condemnation of team owner Josh Solomon because he’d expected the stadium to be finished in the timeframe Landino’s company itself had agreed to, is childish beyond compare. That said, Centerplan & DoNo are hardly the only buffoons in this game.

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