Hartford Mayor Says Rock Cats Are Moving to Hartford

A news conference will be held at noon in Hartford.

The Rock Cats minor league baseball team has been playing at their stadium in New Britain since 1996, but Hartford city officials say the Rock Cats are moving to Hartford.

Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra and the city council are holding a news conference on the front steps of city hall, where Segarra said this is to keep the team in Connecticut.

Segarra said this announcement comes after 17 months of analysis. The funding will come from the city, not the state and the maximum bond amount would be $60 million.

The city has identified at least two developers capable of doing this work, according to Segarra.

Hartford Councilman Ken Kennedy told NBC Connecticut on Tuesday that officials planned to announce a deal today to move the team to Hartford for the 2016 season,

The AA team, an affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, is expected to sign a 25-year lease if the city of Hartford agrees to build a baseball stadium, he said.

New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart denied a report on Monday that the Rock Cats are in talks to move the Minor League Baseball team to Hartford.

"We have a very open and honest relationship," Stewart said. "The city of New Britain really goes above and beyond to accomodate the Rock Cats. They're part of our city. We love them."

But Kennedy said "it's not a rumor."

"These have been some long and very serious negotiations," he said.

Mayor Segarra, the city's development director and other officials briefed the City Council on the plan on Tuesday.

At the time, Kennedy declined to comment on the projected cost, he said that the proposed stadium would have 9,000 seats and Hartford would pay to build a stadium at Main and Trumbull streets through bonding and other financial means.

"The city will build the stadium and it will be the city of Hartford's stadium," Kennedy said.

The Rock Cats approached the city about the idea due to concerns about revenue, otherwise planning to move out of Connecticut, he said. The City Council and zoning officials would have to approve the stadium first.

"I understand there will be, initially, some people that will be angry, but again this wasn't a Hartford driven project," said Kennedy.

Hartford City Council Minority Leader Larry Deutsch said he has many concerns about moving the Rock Cats to Hartford, including a possible negative impact to the surrounding neighborhoods, cost, facility maintenance and unused space in the off-season as opposed to bringing in year-round businesses.

"We would have real reservations about locating a sports facility like that in a downtown area," he said.

Stewart told NBC Connecticut the report of the Rock Cats moving is nothing more than a rumor, and that there is no truth the team is moving. She said she's heard the rumor three or four times since November and that it's possible the management is exploring options but that the Rock Cats general manager reassured her it was news to him.

"SPOILER ALERT: The Rock Cats aren't leaving New Britain," Mayor Stewart tweeted Monday afternoon.

But she said if it ever became true, she would do everything in her power to convince the Rock Cats to stay in New Britain.

"I can assure the public, the people of New Britain, that I will not let them leave," Stewart said.

New Britain's mayor did not respond to NBC Connecticut's follow-up requests for comment on Tuesday night, but has said she's confident the team will stay in her city.

Rock Cats General Manager Tim Restall told NBC Connecticut that reports of a move to Hartford were a surprise to him and he did not return further requests for comment.

The Rock Cats' owner and spokesman did not return NBC Connecticut's requests for comment.

The Minnesota Twins declined to comment and deferred all questions to Rock Cats management.

Segarra also declined to comment on the rumored deal that would bring the Rock Cats from New Britain to Hartford.

"When we have something further, we will share it with you and we will let you know," he said. "As mayor, I have an interest in everything that would be good for our city."

Fans at Tuesday's Rock Cats game said they would be sad to see the team leave New Britain.

"They seem to get good crowds and I'm worried about traffic jams trying to get into downtown Hartford," Bob Kiely, of East Hartford, said.

"I've been their number one fan since 2000," Christina Gorneault, of Berlin, said. " I love these guys and I don't want to go anywhere near Hartford and neither should they."

Fan Ed Breare, of Beacon Falls, said he's "surprised" and disappointed as a fan of 24 years.

Another fan, Edward Cook, of Suffield, raised safety concerns.

"Honestly, I think they've got a great location here. Number one, it's safer," he said. "I just don't feel safe in the city anymore. I'd rather come to New Britain."

Hartford's City Council, which must approve any stadium deal, is expected to take up the issue very soon.

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