Hartford, Connecticut politicians are the latest set of public officials who have received a bill for a stadium only to find out that stadiums cost a lot more than the original sticker price. The stadium which was supposed to be opened in time for the beginning of the 2016 Double A Eastern League season is still not ready, with about a third of the season complete.
The story is pretty much the standard and involves selling politicians on a major development project that would include a base ballpark and a village complete with retail and housing. Hartford taxpayers were going to kick into the project as well, perhaps as much as $56 million for the stadium when the plan was approved in October 2014. The old idea of it generating much needed revenue and revitalizing the city bromide was used. The developers found a franchise in the nearby New Britain team, and the city signed a 25-year lease with team owners. Then, the wheels fell off.
The Hartford Stadium Authority issued $56 million in bonds in 2015. Centerplan had troubles building the facility and needed more funding to get the job done. Hartford agreed to help out with the money needed to finish the small stadium but that money was cut off last week. The ballpark was supposed to kick start other construction projects. In 2014, Hartford officials were very confident that while the ballpark might be a loss-leader, all the other development would more than make up for that.
One other problem, Hartford seized the land for the ballpark village under eminent domain. The owner, Covered Bridge Ventures sued the city because it felt the $1.9 million compensation was not enough and the city and former land owner are waiting for a judge to decide if the compensation was fair. Politicians think subsidized professional sports venues are economic generators when in actuality, they are not.
By Evan Weiner for The Politics of Sports Business.
This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, Evan Weiner.