New Britain Clears Hurdle in Plan to Bring Baseball Back to City

A unanimous vote by New Britain's Common Council on Wednesday night means the city is one step closer to bringing baseball back.

While the Rock Cats' move was a big loss for the Hardware City, common council members believe they've hit a home run by approving a measure that would lease New Britain Stadium to the Atlantic League.

"Baseball lives in New Britain. It's been here for 30-plus years, and it's going to continue. That makes it really good for us to be able to keep providing that family-friendly experience," New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart said.

The league still needs to formally pass the contract, but many officials consider it a done deal. It's a 15-year lease that will bring in $150,000 per year in rent.

"We had some give and takes with general operation of the stadium because they don't have a major league parent company they can go to," Stewart said.

The council put aside some money to make improvements, including replacing bleachers and adding a fresh coat of paint. Having the stadium already in place was a big attraction for the Atlantic League, which plans to relocate an existing franchise.

"You don't have to build a ballpark in New Britain. They have a great facility, and that's a great advantage for the Atlantic League," said Atlantic League Executive Director Joe Klein.

Previous Rock Cats ticket holder Raymond Smith says there's no question where he'll go next year.

"I would definitely go to an Atlantic League game in New Britain versus going to Hartford," Smith said.

In the coming weeks, the city will be asking for name suggestions. For those who can't wait, Stewart says you can tweet her your ideas.

If things continue on track, opening day will be the third week of April.

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