Hartford residents speak out on Yard Goats bailout, if you listen carefully you can even hear them

So the mayor of Hartford held his town hall meeting for residents to comment on his Yard Goats stadium bailout plan last night, and two of the first print reports were, oddly, from non-print outlets: Fox 61 and WNPR. And both quoted the same person who spoke. Ready? Here we go:

“The best I can do and the best I can offer is to use my best judgement and then to come out and explain it and defend it and that’s what I’m trying to do,” said [Hartford Mayor Luke] Bronin at the meeting Monday night. “This was going to cost the taxpayers no matter what. It was going to cost us in the form of lawyers fees and delays in lost revenue if we had gone a different route. I think it’s going to cost us less going this route than it would have the other route.”

If you want to hear from the actual public who went to the public meeting, you’ll have to turn to the Hartford Courant, which ran a print article briefly citing a few local residents (one was worried about taxes going up as a result, one wants the members of the stadium authority fired, one wants the stadium project shut down, and one hopes the mayor is “thinking about the people of this city”) — as well as, since this is Opposite Day, video footage of the event. The lengthiest comment depicted:

The Yard Goats, even with their $2 million they’re putting in now — again, the onus of this is not on you because I don’t think you would have made this kind of deal — is a very insignificant amount of money, and their potential for profit is very great if this stadium is successful. That’s the deal we made. I have concern about that.

If you want to view more clips, featuring terrible framing and some excellent hand gestures, click here.

Mayor asks Hartford residents to tell him what they think of his $3.5m Yard Goats bailout plan

Hartford residents wanting to express their feelings about the bailout plan in which they’d contribute $3.5 million toward cost overruns on the Hartford Yard Goats‘ $56 million stadium (already being built primarily with public money) have their chance at 5 pm today:

[Mayor Luke] Bronin has called a town-hall style meeting on the proposed plan — in which the city, the developers and the team all contribute additional money — to be held Monday beginning at 5 p.m. at Hartford Public Library on Main Street.

This should be loads of fun. The city council will also be discussing the plan tonight, which seemingly would make it hard for anyone who wants to attend both events — though I guess through the magic of Twitter, being in two places at one time isn’t as hard as it used to be.

Hartford mayor proposes $5.5m city bailout of Yard Goats stadium overruns

The stadium budget fiasco that is forcing the Hartford Yard Goats double-A baseball team to spend the first month of their inaugural season on an epic road trip has been tentatively resolved. As you probably expected, it did not end well for taxpayers:

The city of Hartford will finance $5.5 million of the $10 million shortfall to complete the new Yard Goats stadium after reaching a deal and he said the stadium is now scheduled to be completed by May 17…

According to the deal, DoNo Hartford LLC would be responsible for $2.3 million, the city would fund $5.5 million and the Yard Goats would fund $2 million. The deal also requires DoNo to pay $225,000 in extra taxes annually over the life of the bonds.

For those scoring at home, DoNo is the developer that promised to build the stadium, which the city is funding to lure the Yard Goats away from New Britain, which is pretty much the next town over. (Newington residents, I don’t want to hear about it.) An extra $225,000 a year in taxes over 25 years of bonds is present value of … I get about $3 million, but the Hartford Courant says $2 million, so okay. The upshot here, then, is the team is kicking in $2 million, the developer who messed everything up is putting in $4.3 million, and the city is putting in $3.5 million plus a $2 million loan to the developer that will be repaid over 25 years.

That’s pretty awful for a city that’s already on the hook for $56 million, but Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin defending throwing good money after bad on the grounds that in for a penny, in for a pound:

Bronin said no one wanted to put more money into this project, but the city of Hartford needs the project to succeed. It would be “on the hook for far, far more” if it was not able to come to an agreement to get the project back on track, he said.

The city would still be responsible for paying the debt service on nearly $60 million of debt for the next 25 years and there would be no revenue coming in to support it.

That sort of makes sense, except that the only revenue Hartford is getting out of the deal is $500,000 a year in annual rent payments. So at worst if the city had refused to bargain, it would be out half a million dollars if the team had to play the entire season on the road — while the Yard Goats owners would be losing out on an entire season of gate receipts, and DoNo would be responsible for damages of $15,000 a day. It sure seems like the city has bailed out both the team owners and the developer despite holding all the cards — or at least, is being asked to bail them out, as the city council still needs to vote on all of this. Please let them have some better legal and financial advice this time around.

Consultant that’s never been right about anything tells Knoxville to build $200m minor-league hockey arena

As I frequently point out, I don’t have the bandwidth to cover all of minor-league sports, but occasionally a venue deal there stands out as especially noteworthy. And that’s the case with the proposal to replace the Knoxville Civic Coliseum, home of the Knoxville Ice Bears, with a new 10,000-seat arena for a whopping $205 million.

The price tag is alarming — I’m almost certain this would be the most expensive minor-league hockey arena ever, and it’s not close — but even more so is the consultant who made the proposal:

“It’s not state-of-the-industry, at all,” Bill Krueger, principal of Conventions, Sports and Leisure International, said in his presentation on the coliseum and auditorium during a public meeting.

Yes, it’s our old friends CSL, the venue consultant arm of the Dallas Cowboys/New York Yankees-owned concessions company Legends Hospitality, the same consultants who had to withdraw its own economic impact projections for a D.C. United stadium after it admitted screwing them up, overestimated the impact of the San Diego Padres‘ new stadium by including attendees at an unrelated convention center, and cited approvingly a study of LeBron James’ economic impact that the study’s own author had said didn’t mean what CSL said it meant. These are the guys that Knoxville called in to tell them what to do with their arena.

Really, shouldn’t there be some truth-in-labeling requirement that anyone who has been proven to be so spectacularly wrong on previous occasions should have to be presented as such? (I’ve been thinking about this ever since Iran-Contra co-conspirator Elliott Abrams started showing up as a TV pundit, and I thought one of the conditions of his plea deal should have been that he be IDed as “Elliott Abrams, convicted liar.”) The Knoxville News Sentinel can’t be bothered, apparently, so it’s left to me to mock them on my blog instead. I mock thee, Knoxville News Sentinel! How do you like them apples?

Hartford Yard Goats to make fans drive eight hours to see their home opener

Yesterday was a big day in Hartford as well, where the owners of the newly anointed Hartford Yard Goats Double-A baseball team announced that they’re going to play the first month of their first season entirely on the road, since their new $56 million stadium won’t be ready in time for opening day, and maybe not ready for a while after that unless someone comes up with more than $56 million.

My favorite part of all this:

The Hartford Yard Goats first game will be on April 7 at The Diamond in Richmond, Virginia against the San Francisco Giants affiliate, the Flying Squirrels, and Yard Goats season ticket holders will be able to attend these road games, compliments of the Yard Goats, a statement from the team says.

How kind of the rest of the Eastern League! Now any early-adopter Yard Goats fans can go to games just by making the eight-hour drive to Virginia, whereas if the team had stayed in its old home of New Britain they’d be looking at a three-hour haul — and that’s if they went on foot.

As for when the Yard Goats will be able to stop emulating the Ruppert Mundys, that’s anyone’s guess: The team’s owner is still fuming at the city for what he says is incompetence, the city is blaming the developer who was supposed to build the stadium, and the developer is complaining that the city wouldn’t allow it to make cost-cutting design changes. Now somebody has to find about $10 million to get the stadium ready, or else the Yard Goats’ road unis are going to get all worn out by July. It’s almost like this was a pretty terrible idea to begin with.

Hartford Yard Goats could end up playing epic road trip as stadium delays mount

I am so, so sorry for getting so preoccupied with the NFL-to-L.A. stuff yesterday that I neglected to keep you up to date with the Hartford Yard Goats saga. For those who need a reminder, at last report it went something like: Hartford city council approves spending $60 million plus free land on a new minor-league baseball stadium to get the New Britain Rock Cats to relocate from a few miles away, team gives itself a new name that’s even more ridiculous, ballpark goes $10 million over budget and everybody points fingers on who’s to blame and refuses to pay for it. Now, the other shoe has finally dropped:

The city’s new, $56 million minor league ballpark is not likely to be completed by opening day on April 7, and baseball officials are already making alternative plans for where the Yard Goats will play their first home games, Hartford’s stadium authority was told Tuesday.

The latest word is that the construction schedule could be dragged out for an additional four to six weeks, forcing the Yard Goats to start their season with a month-long road trip. (Other teams have done worse.) That would only save $1.7 million, though, and unless somebody fills the resulting budget hole, the team still wouldn’t have a stadium to play in even starting in May.

The lesson here is … oh, man, there are lots of lessons, but for now let’s just go with “make sure your stadium lease agreement has real specific language about who’s responsible for cost overruns and rush charges.” Though it would actually be kind of hilarious for the Yard Goats to have to go slinking back to New Britain, somebody else is already sleeping in their old bed, so that’s probably out.

Hartford minor-league stadium running out of cash, time to be ready opening day

When last we left the minor-league Hartford Yard Goats stadium, it was all a go after getting about $60 million in city subsidies plus free land, with an opening set for April 2016.

That is not going so well:

After reports of overspending and rumors that the ballpark had been delayed, the Hartford Stadium Authority is now confirming that the new home of the Yard Goats may not be ready in time for opening day, and that the budget is being significantly overrun.

“Our agreement with DoNo Hartford LLC is for a $56 million ballpark with a substantial completion date of March 11 and ready for opening day on April 7, 2016,” Charles Matthews, the chairperson of the Hartford Stadium Authority, said in a statement. “DoNo Hartford LLC has informed us that the ballpark may not be ready until late spring and that there is a $10 million shortfall.”

The reasons for the delay and overrun are complicated, but come down to “change orders,” which should be a familiar reason to anyone who’s undertaken a major construction project. (Actually, anyone who’s undertaken a major construction project probably knows that there doesn’t need to be a reason for delays and overruns, they just happen like magic.)

The questions now are where the team will play if the stadium isn’t ready on time, and who will pay for the extra $10 million if more cost savings can’t be found. (Builders already eliminated a planned roof over the right-field grandstand to save cash.) Centerplan, the stadium developer, indicated that it might try to “complete as much as possible, making the ballpark available to play baseball on or about the intended delivery date,” which isn’t exactly reassuring, and could result in an unanticipated road trip to start the season; as for overruns, it doesn’t sound like there’s a plan in place for costs beyond the initial $56 million in construction costs, and Centerplan also hinted at wanting more cash from the city to finish on time, which is even less reassuring.

Of course, somebody could yet find a $10 million line item to eliminate (do they really need two foul poles?) and/or it could turn out that partial completion works okay, or at least as okay as it did for the Chicago Cubs. But given that Hartford is already dealing with one stadium developer that took a bunch of money and failed to actually build a stadium with it, you can understand why city officials might be touchy about it.

PawSox promise to spend five years healing fan “wounds” before threatening to move again

Pawtucket Red Sox chair Larry Lucchino has switched gears, saying he’s now happy to have the team stay in Pawtucket or play anywhere — so long as there’s a new stadium involved:

‘‘We think a new ballpark is important to fulfilling the vision we have for this franchise,’’ Lucchino said after a news conference presenting the team’s new leadership.

When asked if a new ballpark must be somewhere other than Pawtucket, he replied: ‘‘At this point, we’ve taken a position that we’re open to everything, every possibility.’’

Getting a new stadium with public money in Pawtucket doesn’t sound real likely in the short term, since they’d have to go through the same state government that rejected handing over cash for a new stadium in Providence. If anything, it sounds as if the team’s owners are shifting their stadium plans into long-term mode, with team president Charles Steinberg (like Lucchino, a former Boston Red Sox exec) saying the team is committed to staying in Pawtucket for five more years, and that there’s “a repair job to do here” on “wounds that were suffered by fans” during the Providence move threat. In other words: Please come see our games again even though we said we were leaving! We promise we’ll love you for at least another five years!

Somebody in Worcester sends PawSox a letter saying “Pick us! Pick us!”

A nonprofit community development group in Worcester is interested in wooing the Pawtucket Red Sox to their city, which is mostly notable for the awesome lede that the Worcester Telegram gave to its story about this:

Someone with a letterhead is interested in talking with the Pawtucket Red Sox about possibly moving here, and has advice on building a ballpark to accommodate any such relocation.

That about says it all, though I’d add that 1) the Worcester Canal District Alliance doesn’t have the $60 million in stadium subsidies that PawSox owners say they’re looking for, and 2) that had better be one hell of a letterhead, because the Canal District Alliance sure doesn’t have much of a website.

Worcester, Springfield mayors would consider hosting PawSox, less enthused if it costs money

Five days after Pawtucket Red Sox managing partner Larry Lucchino interrupted his birthday party to say he’d be looking for more New England cities to ask for stadium money now that he’d struck out with Providence, there is no shortage of mayors kicking the tires:

John Hill, spokesman for Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus Jr., said while the city is open to discussions with the team, he wouldn’t say whether Augustus would support building a new stadium…

James Leydon, a spokesman for Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, said the city has a rich history of minor league baseball.

“The mayor would be very open to a conversation with the PawSox on bringing baseball back to Springfield,” Leydon said.

Well, sure, who wouldn’t be open to having a team move to your city? But what about the spending lots of money on a new stadium part that Lucchino wants?

Hill reiterated that Augustus has no intention of using public money to finance a stadium…

Leydon wouldn’t say whether Sarno would consider building a new stadium for the PawSox or using public money for one.

It sounds here like WCVB-TV in Boston just called around to every mayor’s office they could think of for comment, and got a couple of bites, though pretty noncommittal ones. Neither Springfield nor Worcester has an existing minor-league stadium, unless you want to count Worcester’s converted 91-year-old football stadium, which is even older than the stadium in Pawtucket that the Sox are trying to leave. In other words: Call me when you have an actual offer, guys.