Yard Goats could skip town if stadium not ready for 2017, Hartford’s shame now complete

The Hartford Yard Goats stadium fiasco has so far included construction delays that have the Double-A baseball team playing its entire season on the road, the city paying massive fire department overtime to be sure the stadium didn’t burn down, and giant budget holes as a result of the city paying this whole mess. Couldn’t possibly get any worse, right?

According to an email from the city’s top lawyer, [Yard Goats owner Josh] Solomon informed him Monday that Hartford’s inability to complete the more than $60 million Dunkin’ Donuts Park is a breach of their development agreement and that sets the clock ticking.

That development agreement says that the city has six months to fix the problem. If it can’t, Solomon has the right to terminate his contract with the city, pack up his team, and go.

This is a nastygram, certainly: Solomon doesn’t want to move the Yard Goats elsewhere, but he does want to light a fire under the city to ensure that the stadium is complete in time for next season, and “Finish it now or else we walk out that door” is one way to get attention. Hartford (or its insurer) will now need to find a new developer to finish the job in a hurry, which won’t be made easier by the fact that it’s in the middle of a mess of lawsuits with the one it just fired.

The best-case scenario for all involved right now is Hartford hires somebody else to finish the job, they do so by April while being paid by the city’s insurance coverage, and at least the bleeding is stopped where it is now. The worst-case scenarios include the city either having to throw millions of dollars in new rush charges at getting the stadium done by next Opening Day, or the city not doing so and ending up with a 90% completed stadium and no team to play there after spending $61.5 million on building it.

Either way, it’s a complete mess, and a good reason not to throw $60 million at a stadium without making sure that the developer and the city’s lawyer have fallback plans worked out in case things don’t go as expected. Other prospective minor-league host cities, at least read up on this a little before jumping into bed with the next owner who makes eyes at you, okay? You won’t be sorry.

Hartford spending $6,200 a day to make sure Yard Goats’ unfinished stadium doesn’t burn down

Yesterday, it was the Atlanta Braves‘ new stadium making a bid for “biggest train wreck ever” with the revelation that Cobb County has granted the team a monopoly on all paid parking within a half-mile radius. Today, it’s the Hartford Yard Goats, whose unfinished stadium is costing the city $6,200 in fire department overtime because it doesn’t have a working sprinkler system and has to be kept on round-the-clock fire watch:

The detail, which has been stationed to the stadium since Friday, costs the fire department about $6,200 a day — and $37,200 so far — from its overtime budget.

Hartford fire Chief Reginald Freeman said that the cost is expected to be passed on to Arch Insurance, the bond surety company that is in charge of completing work on the 6,000-seat stadium north of downtown. However, city officials acknowledged that Arch has not committed to covering the cost…

Arch is conducting an investigation into the claim and then will determine the path to completing the stadium. No timetable has been given for completion.

If the investigation determines that the city was at fault for cost overruns and construction delays at the ballpark, Arch could decide the cost of the fire watch should be shouldered by the city.

You see the obvious solution to everyone’s problems here, right? Right? I mean, right?

The Yard Goats’ eternal road trip is now scheduled to continue at least through July 20, at which point the entire state of Connecticut will be swallowed by a passing black hole.

Hartford Yard Goats stadium’s insurance elapses, rain of toads forecast for Friday

Your morning Hartford Yard Goats schadenfreude:

Hartford’s $63 million minor league ballpark — now standing unfinished just north of downtown — is not being covered by property insurance in the wake of the city’s decision a week ago to terminate a construction contract with its developer, city auditors said Wednesday.

“The bottom line is the city’s investment in that stadium is not insured for property and contents,” said Craig S. Trujillo, the city’s deputy chief auditor. “There is no insurance on that property for perils, like windstorms, like fires.”

In short, the insurance on Dunkin’ Donuts Park ran out once construction was halted, whether this was because the stadium was done (it’s not) or because it’s in a permanent holding pattern (bingo). And nobody bothered to find out about replacement insurance, so if somebody wants to burn down the unfinished stadium, the city would be screwed. Not that anyone would do such a thing, but given how cursed this stadium is, it’s totally what’s going to happen.

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.

Hartford official: Yard Goats stadium sent city budget from bad to worse

This article in Bloomberg Businessweek on the Hartford Yard Goats stadium mess doesn’t break a whole lot of new ground for those already following the now-two-months-and-counting-delayed Double-A ballpark, but I have to mention it because of this one awesome quote:

For the 2018 budget, [Hartford Mayor Luke] Bronin anticipates a $34 million shortfall, thanks to payments on debt that are coming due. The gap balloons to $78 million by 2022. “The stadium isn’t the straw that broke the camel’s back here,” says Melissa McCaw, Hartford’s director for management, budget, and grants. “It’s just some hay that was dumped on a crippled, half-dead camel.”

That’s about the size of it. In most cases — not Cincinnati or Glendale or Bridgeview, but most cases — ballooning stadium subsidies simply aren’t a big enough part of the municipal budget to bankrupt your city all by themselves. They sure don’t help, though.

There’s also this somewhat more confusing quote from McCaw, though it’s possible it’s only the context that makes it seem confusing:

McCaw says that with the stadium unfinished and no new revenue sources available, the city may need to lean on the state for help: “I really just have no idea how we’re going to close that budget gap.”

Whereas if the stadium were finished, Hartford would be … getting a whopping $500,000 in rent this year from the Yard Goats? That’s not going to do much to reincarnate the camel. As embarrassing as the delays are for all involved, the fiscal problem came with spending $63 million in city money (plus free city land) in the first place on a stadium that would generate little to nothing in the way of direct city revenue even if it opened on time. Now everyone involved is just haggling over the blame.

Unfinished Hartford Yard Goats stadium is even more unfinished than we thought

We now have photographic evidence of how far construction has yet to go at the Hartford Yard Goats‘ new Dunkin’ Donuts Park, thanks to one Baseballparks.com blogger Joe Mock, who poked around with his camera on Monday, and Yard Goats owner Josh Solomon, who led an NBC Connecticut reporter on a tour of the unfinished ballpark. And it ain’t pretty:

Hart7Hart6Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 9.07.07 AMScreen Shot 2016-06-02 at 9.07.11 AMThat looks pretty bad — stairwells without railings, missing outfield wall padding, bathrooms without ceiling tiles and in some cases toilets. But this, from the NBC Connecticut story, sounds even worse:

In the VIP area, the ceiling ends about a foot before the wall does heading into an outdoor area and there are sprinklers below installed light fixtures…

There are sections of seats that were supposed to be installed in the outfield that instead have had concrete poured over them.

I don’t even know what that means — they dumped a load of concrete on top of actual seats? or they poured solid concrete in areas that were supposed to have spaces left for seat installation? — but either way, it’s not good. If you have a chance to wager on the eventual home opening date for the Yard Goats, bet the over.

Hartford insurance claim doesn’t mean Yard Goats stadium construction will grind to halt (yet)

Good news, everybody! Construction on the Hartford Yard Goats stadium isn’t going to grind to a halt just because the city of Hartford filed an insurance claim on Thursday for damages because of missed deadlines. Not yet, anyway:

The HSA unanimously decided to file a claim with ARCH Insurance for the value of the stadium. The passage of the resolution is also a symbolic vote of no-confidence in the developer’s ability to get the job done. That put the responsibility on the insurance company to keep the developer on track, and handle any cost overruns.

The insurance company could still decide to halt construction if they believe the project needs an overhaul, or if the city’s claim merits an investigation.

This is just a nastygram for now, in other words, meant to send a message to the developer to pick up the pace, because otherwise the insurance company could send a guy to see you, and you don’t wanna do that, because he don’t like people. Nobody is putting a date on when the stadium will be playable just yet, so hold off on your vacation plans to central Connecticut for the time being.

Yard Goats road trip has no foreseeable ending, as Hartford fines developer for unfinished stadium

I know you want to know what’s up with the Hartford Yard Goats‘ road trip from hell, so here’s the latest: The team will keep playing home games in Norwich through June 6, then move a planned home series vs. the Reading Fightin’ Phils in mid-June to Reading, then cross their fingers and hope real hard that their Hartford stadium is ready by their next scheduled home game on June 21, because the Connecticut Tigers of the NY-Penn League will need the Norwich stadium by then.

Whether there’s any chance of that happening is still very much an open question. As an added incentive to the developers to get the damn thing built already, the city has started fining them $15,000 a day, as allowed in their contract. City officials also have the option of asking their insurer to cover the entire $2 million cost of finishing the stadium — much of which has already been spent — which would undoubtedly be better for the public’s bottom line, but worse for the Yard Goats, since waiting on the insurance claim could eat up the rest of the season.

It is pretty much the worst-case scenario to end all worst-case scenarios, with everybody losing out: Taxpayers who shelled out to build this thing, the team’s owners and fans, and even New Britain fans who lost their team to a city that wasn’t even ready to host it. (I guess fans in Norwich are getting to watch some extra Double-A baseball, so that’s a plus for them?) At this rate, the only baseball being played in Hartford for the foreseeable future could be these guys, and they got arrested so they probably won’t be playing much more this year anyway. Maybe Hartford should just skip the baseball team and keep the mascots?

Hartford Yard Goats stadium opening delayed until July, now officially complete disaster

Surprise, surprise, the Hartford Yard Goats‘ new stadium was deemed not “substantially complete” on Tuesday, meaning it won’t be ready to host the team’s much-delayed home opener on May 31. In fact, it now won’t be open until at least July, which likely means more home games in Norwich — at this point, Hartford fans would have had an easier time seeing their new home team if it had stayed put in New Britain.

With the designation of the stadium as falling short, Hartford can now levy fines of $15,000 a day on developer DoNo Hartford, which is nice but unless this drags out all year isn’t going to do much to cover the $2 million that team owner Josh Solomon can now pull out of providing toward finishing the stadium, plus $500,000 in this year’s rent. (Solomon said yesterday, “I will continue to honor my agreement with the city and I will be flexible to help,” which sure sounds like “Our deal says I don’t have to pay you that $2.5 million now, but you have my sympathies.”) The city apparently has some insurance coverage it can avail itself of, but if it fires DoNo now and goes to seek a new developer the stadium may not open all year, and oh man, is this a juicy mess. Let’s go, Bees!

Portland hockey team celebrates $34m publicly funded arena renovation by moving to Springfield

The owners of the AHL Portland Pirates (that’s Portland, Maine) announced yesterday that they were selling the team to new owners who would move it to Springfield (that’s Springfield, Massachusetts), and everybody in Portland is understandably upset. Some are upset because they’re worried about the effect on local restaurants, which is almost certainly overblown — people in Portland have still got to eat, and they may even spend more of their entertainment dollars eating out now that they don’t have minor-league hockey to occupy their time. Others are upset because of this:

The Pirates, whose season ended Sunday, just completed the second year of a five-year lease with the county. The lease has provisions in the event the team breaks the agreement that limit the damages the arena can claim to $100,000, according to Mitch Berkowitz, chair of the board of trustees for county-owned CIA. He said an executive session of the board is scheduled for Thursday morning.

[Portland Mayor Ethan] Strimling said taxpayers should be upset that they helped pay for a $34 million renovation of the arena in 2013, only to see its anchor tenant leave without warning a few years later.

“Tens of millions of dollars went into that facility,” he said. “When taxpayers put that much money into a project we should have at least been called to the table.”

Yes, you have every right to be upset, Mayor Strimling, though getting mad at the team owners for exercising a $100,000 out clause without calling you first is probably not the most productive way to express your anger. How about getting mad at whichever Cumberland County leaders agreed to spend $34 million on arena renovations for a minor-league hockey team without even getting them to sign a long-term lease that would ensure they stayed in town? In fact, the renovations were approved in 2011 (with one local business leader noting at the time that “the prospect of no Portland Pirates … was just a specter over everybody”), but the lease wasn’t settled on until three years later, which is exactly the wrong way to go about it.

The good news is that the county only breaks even on hockey games anyway, so this will free up some dates for concerts, which could be more lucrative. The bad news is that Cumberland County voters approved spending $34 million on arena upgrades in order to keep their hockey team, and now they have no hockey team. The lesson here: If you’re going to do a quid pro quo, make sure you get the quo before you spend the quid.