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Hartford raises stakes against Yard Goats stadium developers; could result in work stoppage

HARTFORD — The Hartford Stadium Authority has called strike three, but no one is out. Yet. Thursday afternoon the HSA convened a special meeting to “...
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HARTFORD -- The Hartford Stadium Authority has called strike three, but no one is out. Yet.

Thursday afternoon the HSA convened a special meeting to "call the bond," a term meaning the city can try to file a damages claim against Dunkin' Donuts Park's developer, DoNo Hartford LLC, and its construction company, Centerplan.

"It was the right thing to do to keep the project moving they gave us the date that they would hit," said Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin. "I wish that they would hit it. I wish we weren't in this situation but the bottom line is that we have to hold our development partners accountable for meeting their obligations."

Last Friday the developer and HSA met to discuss a failure to meet the May 17th deadline for park completion. At that point, the city announced that it would demand payment from DoNo Hartford LLC and Centerplan for missing that deadline. The fines were to the tune of $50,000 for May 17th, and $15,000 for each day after that until the park is "substantially complete." At that meeting, the HSA also demanded that the developers set up a meeting with its insurance company for the $63 million Dunkin' Donuts Park.

The HSA unanimously decided to file a claim with the developers' insurance company, ARCH Insurance, for the value of the stadium. The passage of the resolution is also a symbolic vote of no confidence in the developer's ability to get the job done. That puts the responsibility on the insurance company to keep the developer on track, and handle any cost overruns.

"We need to make sure that there's a partner on the other side that is demonstrating the financial and technical capacity and the commitment to get this job done without any further burden to the taxpayers of the city of Hartford," said Bronin.

The insurance company could decide to halt construction if they believe the project needs an overhaul, or if the city's claim merits an investigation.

The developers held a press conference following  the meeting. The manager for DoNo LLC, Jason Rudnick, had strong words for city leaders calling the HSA vote "counterproductive" and "not helpful."

"What's being expressed in the media is that is that it's CenterPlan's fault," said Rudnick. "We haven't completed the stadium but there's no mention of all the directional changes that we're getting on an almost daily basis now."

Rudnick produced five work orders he claims are from the city which request substantial changes to original blueprints. The changes, Rudnick said, require time, money and manpower.

Rudnick asserted a claims process would be disastrous for construction, currently described as at 95 percent completion, and set construction back for weeks to months.

"Regardless of all of that we're committed to finishing the ballpark. We're not going anywhere," said Rudnick. "We're not walking off the site, we're not stopping our work, We will finish this ballpark."

Bronin says Hartford has received no money from any fines or damages as the claims to fines are currently being disputed. The mayor asserted he does not with to part ways with DoNo Hartford or Centerplan, he just wanted the ballpark finished.

City officials say the fees and fines for missing the deadline are capped at $250,000, currently they are in excess of $170,000.

After the meeting, Yard Goats owner Josh Solomon released a statement:

We’re extremely disappointed that Centerplan did not deliver the stadium as promised, confirmed and reconfirmed.

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.

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.

The Yard Goats have already lost 54% of their home season and are on the verge of losing the entire 2016 season. This is causing great hardship not just for our team, but for our fans, sponsors and the hundreds of Hartford residents who were counting on jobs at the ballpark.

No word on when the stadium will be completed. All parties will meet with ARCH insurance Tuesday afternoon.