Are the Rock Cats Better Off in New Britain or Hartford?

Last week it was announced that the New Britain Rock Cats will be moving to a brand new stadium in Hartford starting with the 2016 season.  While news came as a shock to everyone– even, apparently Erin Stewart, the Mayor of New Britain— the move became official within days of the first rumors surfacing.

Fan reaction has been mixed regarding the relocation, but we’re breaking things down to see if this change of venue is likely to help or hurt the Rock Cats in the long run.

New Britain
New Britain Stadium opened its doors in 1996, and has been the home to the Rock Cats for nearly two decades. While the stadium is not very new any more, it has been very well maintained and remains a favorite venue for local baseball fans.
Winner The city of Hartford is pulling out all the stops with the new stadium they will build to house the baseball team. With a price tag of $60 million, it appears the new stadium will be bigger and feature even more modern trappings to help welcome the team and their fans.
New Britain Stadium features a total of 6,146 seats, and many games fill at least two thirds of those.
Winner Hartford's new stadium will be bigger, clocking in at 10,000 seats. This means a bigger potential audience, but also greater risk at appearing empty during low attendance games.
Winner The New Britain Rock Cats have made a name for themselves as providing a fun, affordable night out for the whole family. With low ticket prices and reasonable parking, it's tough to find another sport that packs the same kind of value.
Rock Cats owner Josh Solomon has claimed ticket prices will not increase after the move to Hartford, but it remains to be seen whether concessions and snacks will remain as budget-friendly.
Getting There
Winner New Britain Stadium is a short drive on Route 9, making it very accessible-- with minimal traffic tie-ups-- for much of central Connecticut
Winner The Hartford stadium will be located near the I-84 and I-91 intersection. This will offer the potential of more fans making the shorter trek from Springfield or UConn... But it may add yet another issue into the already busy evening commute in this area.
Winner The Rock Cats' average game attendance for the 2013 season is 4,653, according to MILB.com
Hartford doesn't have baseball right now, but they DO have another minor league team, the Hartford Wolf Pack, whose average attendance was 4,071 during the 2013-14 season, according to HockeyDB.com
Team Name
Winner The Rock Cats is a known brand that has been in Connecticut for nearly 20 years. From the logo to their tagline "These Cats Rock," to their mascot Rocky, the team has been embraced by many local fans.
Solomon has indicated that the team will likely change names entirely with their move to Hartford. Especially in today's over-communicated world, attempting to establish an all new brand-- especially one taking the place of a long term favorite-- is easier said than done. Just ask the Hartford Whale-- er-- Wolf Pack.
Aside from post-game fireworks and laser shows and an annual summer concert, New Britain Stadium tends to only remain active from the Spring to the Fall. Its home, Willowbrook Park, is often used to store excess snow in harsh winters, but there's not much else going on pre-season.
Winner Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra has proposed a litany of shops and non-baseball events for the new stadium, with the intention to keep it open and active all year long.

We'll Just Call it a Tie

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The final result? A dead heat, with the benefits and drawbacks of each location balancing out. A stalemate like this seems indicative of the controversy this move has sparked in baseball fans all over Connecticut.

On the other hand, while it certainly does seem the Rock Cats will be taking some major losses by departing New Britain, there's more potential in their decision to head to Hartford than some fans may have considered when the first announcement shocked us all.

If the franchise can keep not only their tickets but the overall game experience affordable, and Hartford can do something to alleviate the heavy weekday commute traffic instead of add to it, it's possible this move can lead to bigger things for the future of the (ex) Rock Cats.


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