Hartford Withdraws $60 Million Bond Plan For New Stadium; Wants Private Funding

Hartford Courant (CT), 2014-07-11

July 11 -- HARTFORD -- City officials have backed away from a proposal to bond up to $60 million for a new minor-league stadium north of downtown, saying they will instead seek a private partner to finance much of the project.

In a letter to the city council Friday, Mayor Pedro Segarra formally withdrew the resolution and said he still wants a major redevelopment of the area, including new housing, retail and the 9,000-seat ballpark, but "without placing additional tax burdens on Hartford property owners."

Proposals from developers are due Aug. 1 . A new stadium plan, which would be contingent on a "public-private partnership" that has yet to be determined, is expected to be presented to the council Aug. 11 , Segarra said.

"I think that there is consensus from council leadership and from the mayor and from community stakeholders that this should be about downtown redevelopment -- which it is -- and if the stadium is going to be constructed, it should ... not create a tax burden to the community," Segarra said Friday.

The shift comes about a week after a public meeting in which some residents aired their anger over the proposed ballpark that Segarra once called a "done deal." The mayor and his aides had been in private talks with the Rock Cats , the Double A Eastern League affiliate of the Minnesota Twins , since fall 2012 about the possibility of moving the baseball team from New Britain to the capital city.

The Rock Cats' owners have said they would sign a 25-year lease and move to Hartford if the city provides a new stadium. The proposal, originally presented to the council last month, has called for a 220,000-square-foot ballpark to be completed by April 1, 2016 , in time for that year's minor league season.

Segarra and Thomas Deller , the city's development director, said Friday that the new resolution will still include the lease agreement with the Rock Cats . What will be missing, they said, is the stipulation that the city bond as much as $60 million for the project.

A public hearing on the proposal could happen shortly after Aug. 11 , with a council vote in September, city officials said. Deller said he also expects the city to present its recommended private partner in September for the council's approval.

Based on conversations with developers, said Deller, without elaborating, the city expects to receive at least four proposals from its recent request for bids to redevelop the Downtown North area -- currently a sea of parking lots that separates the North End from downtown.

Hartford officials says the stadium would bring the equivalent of 665 full-time jobs and more than 900 construction jobs, and generate 23,700 hotel room stays annually. Critics of the project have questioned those figures.

The Rock Cats' lease with the city of New Britain runs through the end of the 2015 season.


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