Stewart, Atlantic League work out tentative deal

Photo: Ray Shaw | Special to the Herald

by Robert Storace
September 23, 2015

NEW BRITAIN — Mayor Erin Stewart and the founder of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball signed a tentative agreement Monday to bring baseball back to New Britain in 2016.

“I’m thrilled. It’s a home run,” Stewart said of the tentative 15-year deal with Frank Boulton that calls for his league to pay the city more annually than the New Britain Rock Cats did, but assigns all parking rights to an as-yet unnamed incoming team.

“This deal will ensure that we are able to cover our costs for the stadium while getting the highest and best use out of this asset,” the mayor said. “But, more importantly, it’s about keeping professional baseball right here in New Britain for all the fans who come to us from all over Connecticut.”

Under the tentative agreement — subject to approval tonight by the Common Council — the annual rent for the first five years of the lease will be $150,000. The Rock Cats, who played their last game in New Britain earlier this month, paid the city about $101,600 annually. Also under the tentative agreement, the annual rent for the sixth through 10th year would be $160,000, and it would jump to $170,000 for the 11th through 15th years.

However, the city had control over the parking when the Rock Cats played here. The agreement calls for the Atlantic League team to have that control. In previous years, city officials said, the city netted a little under $100,000 after expenses from parking. Under the tentative agreement, the league cannot charge more than $7 per vehicle for the 2016 and 2017 seasons and can charge a maximum of $10 for the 2018 through 2020 seasons.

“The biggest concession is that the city will not operate the parking,” the mayor said Tuesday. “But we will make 10 percent of the net parking revenues. We will also make 10 percent of the naming rights if they find a sponsor.”

If, for example, a sponsor comes forward to give the league $100,000 to have its name on the stadium, the city would receive $10,000. Any name change for the stadium is subject to city approval.

“It [the stadium] was never meant to be a revenue generator,” the mayor said, adding, “It’s a tourist location. I’m a firm believer that the quality of baseball played in the Atlantic League [which isn’t affiliated with major league baseball] is as good or better than a Double A team.”

In addition to the council signing off tonight, Boulton said Tuesday. “We hope to have league approval a week from when the council confirms it.”

Boulton said he expects an announcement on which team will relocate to New Britain by mid-October. “I think it’s a very fair deal that will allow baseball to be continued to be played in New Britain,” Boulton said.

City leaders of both parties called the tentative agreement fair.

“I think it’s a great deal for the city,” said Republican Alderman Jamie Giantonio. “I tip my hat to the mayor for making this happen.”

“At the end of the day, this is a solid deal,” said Democrat Carlo Carlozzi. “It brings baseball back to the city where it belongs.”

This story originally appeared in the New Britain Herald.