Video report by Beau Berman, Fox CT
Text by Jenna Carlesso and Jon Lender, Hartford Courant
HARTFORD — The New Britain Rock Cats are negotiating with Hartford officials to move the minor league baseball team to the city in 2016.
City officials who requested anonymity said Monday there is a proposal to build a stadium at Main and Trumbull streets — an area known as “12B” just north of downtown. The team would begin playing there in the 2016 season.
Two city officials said Monday that a tentative deal has been reached for the team to relocate to Hartford, but that a finalized agreement has not been signed. The deal is also subject to city council approval.
People with knowledge of the situation said Hartford could contribute millions to the effort.
Through a spokeswoman, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra declined comment Monday. Rock Cats owner Josh Solomon did not return calls seeking comment.
Reached by phone, New Britain Mayor Erin E. Stewart said: “That’s news to me — and I have a very close relationship with the Rock Cats. This is a rumor that always flies around. It’s the third or fourth time I’ve heard it.”
Stewart, who is in her first year as mayor, said each time the rumor comes up, “I always bring it up with the ownership.” The Rock Cats’ owners “love it in New Britain. Our relationship has been so open, and so honest. I can’t see them going.”
Shortly after speaking to The Courant Monday, she tweeted, “SPOILER ALERT: The Rock Cats aren’t leaving New Britain.”
Asked about the possible move, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s communications director, Andrew Doba, declined comment.
Sources said the Rock Cats also considered moving to Springfield, and that the negotiations to move the team to Hartford were in part an effort to keep the franchise in Connecticut.
One official said Hartford has been in talks with the Rock Cats for more than a year.
Sen. John Fonfara, D-Hartford, said that in early May, Segarra’s chief of staff, Juan Figueroa, told him there had been discussions with the Rock Cats about the team’s potential interest in moving to Hartford. He said Figueroa indicated the owners were thinking of moving out of state, but that Hartford might be an option.
Fonfara said Figueroa showed him “a diagram of where the facility would be” — just north of the city center.
The site, a gateway to the city, was at one time proposed by Hartford officials as a location for UConn’s downtown campus.
Minor league baseball was last played in Hartford in 1952. The then-Boston Braves had an affiliate, the Hartford Chiefs, who played at Bulkeley Stadium in the South End. When the Braves moved to Milwaukee in 1953, the farm team also moved.
The Red Sox moved their farm team from Bristol to New Britain in 1983. Joe Buzas, a longtime minor league owner, had control of the team until 1999.
New Britain Stadium opened in 1996 and seats 6,146.
When a group led by Bill Dowling bought the franchise in 2000, the franchise, now affiliated with the Minnesota Twins, found new life. It has set attend records nearly every year.
Dowling’s affiliation with the team ended this spring. New Britain Double Play LLC, led by Solomon and his siblings, Jim Solomon and Jennifer Goorno, assumed control of the franchise from Dowling.
Attendance has never been a problem in New Britain.
The Rock Cats just drew more than 21,000 to New Britain Stadium this past weekend, a team record for a three-game series.