(CBS Connecticut) — After three years of debate that included a year of construction delays, the Hartford Yard Goats tonight began their first home game in their new stadium, Dunkin’ Donuts Park.
The team took on the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
The team completed its move from New Britain, where it was known as the Rock Cats.
Former Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra was on the field for a ceremony before the game, although he did not speak to the crowd.
Segarra first announced the closed-door negotiations that brought the team to the capital city. The deal obliged city taxpayers to pay for the stadium. Segarra was voted out of office in the next election.
At the time, Segarra predicted that the stadium would be the spark that ignited development in the vacant lots around the stadium.
“We are a city that perseveres, we face big challenges but we overcome them, we don’t give up, we just get it done,” current Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said to the crowd.
“Whoever said good things come to those who wait, must have been from Hartford,” Team owner Josh Solomon said.
The Yard Goats were originally scheduled to begin using the stadium last April, but the original developer ran into construction delays and cost overruns. Centerplan was removed from the project, and another company was brought in to complete the job.
The Centerplan is now fighting with the city and the team in court. Centerplan was also selected by the city to build a large retail, housing, and office development in the neighborhood around the park.
Hartford Stadium Authority Chairman I. Charles Mathews has said previously that he expects the city will have to sue, to get Centerplan off the DoNo Hartford project.
“I hope you all know, who love the city, that this is just the beginning,” Mathews told the crowd before the game started. “Three years from now, this whole neighborhood is going to be different.”
Dozens of fans gathered outside the entrances to the stadium well before the doors opened, two hours before game time.
Saint Louis, Missouri resident Tom Goodman was one of the first people in line outside the stadium. Goodman is a serious fan of minor league baseball.
“I just travel the road, I go around and see all the minor league clubs. I have seen 157 of them. They moved, so this will be 158,” Goodman said. “[Minor league baseball] is more like baseball was meant to be back in the 1940’s, 50’s, even 60’s when it was more interactive with the fans and the players.”