Stadium Authority Considers Action Against Hartford Ballpark Developer

Construction on the new baseball stadium in Hartford is behind schedule and the Hartford Stadium Authority met on Thursday to give the executive director and corporation counsel the power to take all actions necessary to get the stadium completed as soon as possible without any further financial obligation on the city.

The members of the authority unanimously voted in favor of a resolution before them.

Construction on Dunkin’ Donuts Park, the future home of the Hartford Yard Goats, was supposed to be “substantially complete” by May 17, but that did not happen and the most recent estimate for stadium completion is July Fourth weekend.

The baseball team has been playing in Norwich rather than in Hartford because the stadium is not done.

Josh Solomon, owner of the Yard Goats, released a statement on Thursday saying that the team already lost 54 percent of its home season and is on the verge of losing the entire season.

"We stand behind Mayor Bronin and the Stadium Authority and believe they will do everything in their power to hold the developer accountable and use the contractual agreements in place to provide the funds necessary to complete the ball park so that the team can come home to Hartford and play ball at Dunkin’ Donuts Park," Solomon wrote in a statement.

During the stadium authority meeting, concerns were brought up that the level of work at the stadium has dropped in recent weeks and they said one of the thoughts is that the insurer would come in and add additional oversight with the goal that the project be done as quickly as possible and correctly without incurring more costs from the city in the form of change orders.

If city leaders decide to "call the bond," it could delay the construction of the ballpark by several weeks.

The bonding company would immediately assess the stadium construction project and decide whether to replace Centerplan Construction as the general contractor or keep them on the job with oversight.

In either case, the bond is secured by the assets of the developer, DoNo Hartford, LLC and its principles.

Neither the City of Hartford nor the Yard Goats would be required to spend additional money to finish the stadium.

"We agree that calling the payment and performance bond is the only course of action available as the developer has shown no ability to meet the agreed upon schedules or effectively manage the project," Solomon said in a statement on Thursday.

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said the authority wants to protect the taxpayers of the city of Hartford and get the stadium built as quickly as possible.

"Based on the level of progress we've seen, based on the fact that multiple dates have now been given and have been missed, I think there is generally a lack of confidence that we can rely on any of the schedules or assurances that we've been hearing from the developer," Bronin said.

He added that the city is not terminating Centerplan or DoNo.

"They continue to have an obligation, a duty, to complete the stadium," Bronin said.

Jason Rudnick, the Manager of DoNo Hartford LLC, charged with developing the baseball stadium and surrounding sites, said his group is not solely to blame for the delays.

Rudnick provided 5 percent construction change directives that he said came from the city, further slowing down the progress on Dunkin' Donuts Park.

He said those orders are the reason Centerplan and DoNo Hartford LLC have informed the city that they plan to fight the liquidated damages assessed against DoNo.

“Everyone has got dirt on their hands but don’t point it all at me. We all have to be fair with each other and be transparent," Rudnick said. 

The developer, per the January agreement that established the May 17 substantial completion deadline, owes $50,000 for the first day late and $15,000 for each day thereafter, not to exceed $250,000.

The city of Hartford created the Hartford Stadium Authority to help finance construction on the park and the stadium authority said in February that they planned to borrow $62.4 million, including $39 million from the sale of tax-exempt bonds and $23.4 million in taxable bonds.

To date, the developer has not paid any of those fines, members of the stadium authority said during the meeting.  

Max Reiss contributed to this report.

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