Yard Goats’ Pasture Still Not Ready; Now State Money is Involved

One wonders whether Dunkin Donuts is getting some reimbursement for the cabbage they put up for the naming rights to the home of the Hartford Yard Goats. Developers of the Dunkin Donuts Park missed yet another deadline Tuesday and are officially in breach of contract. Likely to cause even more controversy as construction drags on is that fact that state taxpayers will be paying toward debt relief for the stadium.

Mayor Luke Bronin seems to blame former Mayor Pedro Segarra’s people for setting an unrealistic deadline. The Eastern League is now six weeks into its season and Hartford is playing home games in Norwich. (And the greenery at Dodd Stadium is not appetizing for the Goats. They’ve lost five straight there.)

A goat with no home.

A goat with no home.

The bottom line is the stadium mess is the fault of the developer, DoNo, LLC, which is in reality Centerplan Cos. Of Middletown. Centerplan negotiated the May 17, 2016 deadline and blew right through it. Its CEO is Bob Landino, the very well-connected former state representative (seems everyone knows someone).

Landino’s company is now on the hook for $50,000 for the first day and $15,000 for each day the park isn’t “substantially complete”—no definition of what constitutes “substantially.”

Artist rendering of Dunkin Donuts Park (items in picture are NOT closer than they appear).

Artist rendering of Dunkin Donuts Park (items in picture are NOT closer than they appear).

The Hartford Courant quotes DoNo’s Jason Rudnick as saying the delay was the result of “issues that have arisen that required changes to our construction schedule and [DoNo Hartford was] in discussion with the city about those issues.” Um, yeah, ok.

One of the big selling points of the park project was that state taxpayers wouldn’t have to foot the bill for construction or debt service. Gov. Dannel Malloy was dead set against such expenditures.

In April of 2015, a bill was introduced that would have directed state funding to do just that. It divided the two Democratic state senators representing Hartford. It was backed by Democratic state Sen. John Fonfara (D-Hartford). But fellow Hartford Democratic state Sen. Eric Coleman campaigned in his primary race in 2014 against using state money. The bill failed. Fonfara lost.

The Shad tried over several days to get a response from Coleman but to no avail.

Let’s pause for some “inside baseball” notes about passing a state budget. 1) Nothing is ever really dead in the state legislature, and 2) If you didn’t get what you wanted in the budget because it would have failed if voted on, or it didn’t get out of committee, or it didn’t have a public hearing, then stick it in the budget “implementer.” The implementer is the bill that actually puts the budget into law and where you can find these previously failed bills.

After the legislature passed one of the ugliest budgest in recent memory, it was discovered that in the implementer, there was an exemption from the admissions tax for The Dunk. That means the state taxpayers lose out on about $400,000 in tax money each year.

yard-goat

Now, all the players in stadium project (grab your scorecards but the pencils aren’t in stock yet) will meet Wednesday to figure out the next step.

If you’re thinking, “Just play there and work on it as you go,” guess again. There are temporary wood railings in place and they’re apparently using a two-by-four as the left field foul pole. Let’s just use a pizza box for first base and a boarded-up neighborhood storefront as a backstop. What a mess.