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Everything posted by jdrinboston

  1. Is this a maneuver aimed at bypassing the PZC approval. My understanding was that this proposal came before the commission last month and the applicants (the private developer) ended up withdrawing the application because it appeared they wouldn't have the votes? By having this project developped by a city-backed authority, is PZC approval now moot? If they do need commission approval, I have no idea how they would get the green light by February. Frankly, I haven't even heard about a construction manager or architect being lined up for the project so I have no idea how they think a February groundbreaking is feasible.
  2. Well, it looks the city council has done its part. I was surprised to read about the part of the PZC needing to approve a special permit. What are the chances of them actually rejecting the permit?
  3. Death by a thousand paper cuts? http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-hartford-rockcats-0619-20140618,0,1137085.story
  4. The problem with the referendum though is that the earliest it could happen would be Nov. 4. At that point - assuming it gets approved - a big if - you basically have 17 months to hire an architect, design a ballpark, secure state and utility approvals on road realignment, bid out construction, and get the ballpark constructed. That's an extremely ambitious - if not logistically infeasible - schedule. And if you are the Rock Cats and you have a lease that expires in New Britain at the end of 2015, do you sit tight and hope that voters approve a $60 million ballpark that may not even be built in time, or do you just say to Hartford "This isn't going to work out," and move onto another city, or maybe even angle for a renovation of New Britain Stadium.
  5. Potential wrinkle to the Rock Cats deal. I'm surprised a city like Hartford would actually have a referendum provision in their charter. http://wnpr.org/post/city-council-may-not-have-final-vote-hartford-ballpark A couple of points: 1. 1,400 signatures isn't a high threshold, so if they are motivated to get this on a ballot, they will probably pull it off. 2. Time is of the essence in this deal and it looks like the earliest this vote could come is November, about 3 months after the mayor wants to wrap the deal up. They haven't even started designing the ballpark yet, so this would seriously call 2016 into question. 3. Given these two points above, this would in all likelihood be an instance where opponents can defeat a project or proposal just by getting it on the ballot. Seventy-percent of voters could love the project and vote in favor, but if the city can't meet its deadline, the game could be over.I'm certain the opponents know that, though I don't think that's how representative government should work. Thoughts?
  6. Just opened a brand new ballpark this year. Averaging more than 9,600 right now. Tops in the league.
  7. There may indeed may be a AAA plan afoot. If so, that would explain why they've been so secretive with New Britain and cryptic with their reasons for wanting to leave NB. Frankly, if they are looking to acquire and bring a AAA team to Hartford, there is nothing New Britain can do to help them except blab it out early and scuttle the potential deal. The only concern I have is that there doesn't appear to be a lot of vulnerable International League teams that are prime for the taking. There are a lot of complex ownership situations in the IL, many of which involve community trusts with hundreds of local stockholders. Syracuse and Rochester are among the lowest draws in the league. Syracuse is averaging less than 3,000 people per game. But they are owned by several hundred community stock holders so they would seem to be "ungettable." Same situation in Rochester. Many other teams - while drawing weak crowds - are playing in newish or newly renovated stadiums i.e. Gwinnet, GA or Scranton, PA. The owner of the Pawtucket Red Sox died relatively recently and his heirs still own the team. Would the Solomons want to wade into that PR mess by trying to move the PawSox to Hartford? At this point, the only team that I could peg for possible purchase and relocation is Norfolk. They are owned by a more traditional ownership group and they are among the lowest third in the league in attendance (though their numbers would be fine for AA). A possible scenario: The Solomons purchase the AAA Norfolk Tides with the purpose of moving them to Hartford in 2016 and move the AA Rock Cats to Norfolk? One thing I'll say about Josh Solomon thus far: he's proven to be a master at keeping his plans a secret until he's ready to make them public. I would not be shocked if there are more shoes to drop regarding this story.
  8. Hi folks...I posted this on another message board a little while ago. (Not an urban planning board) Thought I might post it here as well. Let me know your thoughts. "I'm Rock Cats fan and former season ticket holder and I'm still trying to figure out where I come down on this, but while the outlay by the city is expensive, there is something to consider. The city basically owns all of those parking lots, save for the one small lot that they are purchasing from Rennselear Hartford to complete the ballpark. Those lots have been virtually undeveloped my entire lifetime. Because they are isolated from the rest of the city, they've been seen as a sort of Bermuda triangle by developers. But suddenly with a ballpark there, all sorts of opportunities there for development. For example, as an apartment developer, imagine being able to put up a mid or hi-rise type building with loft-like apartments that look into the ballpark? The ground floor of the building can have a sports bar or restaurant that caters to baseball fans as well as some of the new residents moving into the neighborhood. With a ballpark, there is the potential for the city to not only gain new tax revenue from new development, there is also the opportunity for increased money by selling those lots to developers for a higher price than what they are worth now. People talk about the money that was spent on the Civic Center/XL Center within the vaccum of that building. But nobody seems to consider the construction that occurred around the building in the ensuing 15 years. CityPlace 1 &2, 1 Commercial, The "Stilts" Building, Goodwin Square, 242 Trumbull, 100 Pearl St. How much revenue do those buildings generate for the city that was there prior to 1975? Can you honestly say the Civic Center was unconnected to these developments? Why couldn't the same type of spin off happen here? Finally, I'm somewhat baffled at what is in this for the Rock Cats, with the exception of a larger, nicer stadium, which I admit is significant. They are going to pay almost 5 times the rent of NB, contribute 10 percent toward construction, and share half of the naming rights and stadium advertising revenue with the city. To my knowledge, the city is offering them no guarantees of revenue - unlike the potential Patriots or Whalers deal. So aside from the city assuming the risk of the bonding, it looks like the team is assuming the risk to their business operation. Not to mention, they have risked alienating a significant chunk of their fan base. I've never seen a sports franchise owner agree to such terms."
  9. I swear if I hear one more person ask where people are going to park.... Somebody tell these people this entire block is all surface parking lots. It has been all surface parking lots as long as I've been alive. When the park is built, there will still be two large surface lots next door....I'm fairly certain both lots will be bigger than the ones in New Britain now. What is with people? I understand people have questions and mixed feelings, but why do people feel the need to open their mouths without looking at a damn map? Now with any luck, if the park is successful, those lots might become viable for private development. Now wouldn't that be a nice problem to have?
  10. I'm sorry if this is a dumb question. Were the first phase buildings on Front Street (the ones with Infinity and the cinemas) designed to support additions of upper floors for apartments/offices? I drove by there a couple of weeks ago and while it was nice to see some retail there, the fact that the parking garages were higher than the buildings drove me nuts. If they can't do full blown additions, maybe they can do some type of Disney/Hollywood fake upper floors?
  11. 9,000 seats is certainly agressive, but like I said yesterday, if well designed - the ballpark could be absolutely gorgeous. Reading the various tweets and Facebook posts about this move, it seems the fan base is very much in favor of staying put in New Britain. (Expressed mostly in borderline racist and ignorant comments relating to being the victim of a crime going to a baseball game) Even Scott Grey of WTIC - somebody who is usually gung ho about such things - is skeptical of this move. I think people are misreading this situation as a NB vs Hartford issue. Based on the behavior of the team's owners toward New Britain, I would say they have made it clear they are not interested in a future involving New Britain. If this Hartford ballpark deal falls through, they're next stop will likely be out of Conn. Hopefully this all works out, and they don't lose a substantial chunk of the fan base in the process.
  12. I'm a long time lurker, but first time poster who felt the need to post on this topic. Please excuse the length, but I think there are a bunch of things going on with this story. Although I am now an adult living in Boston, let me start by saying I grew up a NB Red Sox/Rock Cats season ticket holder. Many of the summer nights of my childhood/teens were spent at Beehive Field and New Britain Stadium. Baseball in that specific place is very important to me. With that said, there's a part of me that feels like a potential move to Hartford may be a great opportunity and very exciting. Another part of me feels like it could end in disaster. But from reading the tea leaves, my biggest concern is that the new Rock Cats owners seem to have mentally checked out of New Britain, which means 1 of 3 things. 1. They will move the team to Hartford - could be both good or bad 2. They will move the team to Springfield - the worst case scenario for Conn. as a team in western Mass would be able to exercise MiLB territorial restrictions over greater Hartford/Central Conn., preventing another affiliated team from coming in to replace them. 3. Unable to reach a deal in another city, the Rock Cats owners reluctantly accept another lease with the city of New Britain, placing the city/team in a form of purgatory where the owners keep the team in the city, but constantly have their eye out on a potential deal to take them elsewhere. Just a couple of thoughts on stadiums in both Hartford and New Britain and a final thought on team ownership: 1. Stadium design here is crucial. One of the reasons we are here today is because the original design of New Britain Stadium was botched. In an effort to use local designers and contractors, the city and the state brought in a firm from New Britain that had never designed a professional sports facility before. While beautiful, state-of-the-art ballparks went up in Trenton, Bowie, MD, and Norwich utilizing new design techniques - the biggest being the open concourse at the top of the stadium - New Britain built a ballpark with a concourse set below and behind the stands. A design feature that had been basically abandoned 3 years earlier. In addition, areas like the management offices, clubhouses, and press boxes were not designed with the idea of expansion in mind. When New Britain Stadium opened, the Rock Cats had something like 6 or 7 full time employees. They have more than 20 now. I have no idea where they put them. The press box design was also botched as the architects initially forgot to include space for newspaper writers. They had to lop off a radio booth and carve out space for a "press row." The result is that the remaining radio booths have an obstructed view of the field, so much so that the Rock Cats announcer doesn't bother to use one of the booths. He just sits in the far corner of the press box next to the beat writers/official scorer. Upkeep has also been questionable, especially in recent years. I was at the game this weekend and was surprised at how badly things like painting, section signs and seating have deteriorated. If the Rock Cats stay in New Britain, they are going to need to seriously look at renovating the place. But I'm not sure how much space they have for any groundbreaking changes, other than cosmetic and infrastructure. 2. An urban ballpark in downtown Hartford, or nearby has the potential to be spectacular. I could imagine having a park that is oriented toward downtown or the state capitol. It could really be something to see and something to truly enjoy. The keys will be finding the right architect (hopefully Populous/HOK, or Ellerbe Becket) and making the best use of the layout of the building site. Make sure the innards of the park are designed in such a way that renovation/expansion down the road can be done easily. Marketing will also be a key as some fans will undoubtedly be leery of coming to Hartford. This is where the city and the team truly need to team up with each other in educating fans about the area and what it has to offer. Clear maps and way-finding signage will also be key. As a side note, this will probably cost somewhere between $35 and $50 million. I'll be very interested to see where the money for this is coming from. 3. Finally, I feel compelled to say something about the Rock Cats current and past ownership. The Joe Buzas era in Bristol/New Britain was a fairly quiet, yet stable era in the franchise. To his credit, he kept the team in New Britain, but his desire to market and energize the franchise never went beyond putting a sign up outside Willowbrook Park advertising a game tonight. When Coleman Levy and Bill Dowling came in, they completely reinvigorated the franchise and turned what had been a moribound building into one of the hottest tickets in town during the summer. But the, one March day in 2012 they quickly and suddenly got out, without as much as a warning. Their process to purchase the team took more than a year from announcement to complete hand off. (Rumors of Buzas negotiating with Levy had circulated for 2 years prior) Their sale of the franchise - on the other hand - seemed to take about 3 weeks. It was announced the first week in March and by opening day that year, the new owners were in place. This is almost unheard of in the sports world. The speed and seemingly clandestine nature of the sale always bothered me. The fact that the new owners were unconnected to the community and from out of state bothered me. The fact that their father owns another team in the league (New Hampshire) and that they needed to use a technicality to circumvent the rules barring two owners of the same team in the same league, always bothered me. Simply put, the sale of the team always left me with a bad feeling about the situation and the teams future. At the very least, it would appear that the paradigm for dealing with Rock Cats ownership has very much changed. Despite their successes, if Rock Cats end up leaving the state - or scorch most of the fan base by mishandling their move to Hartford - that may end up being the legacy of the Levy/Dowling era for the Rock Cats. Sorry for the length, I just thought I might be able to add some insights that others might not think of.
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