Dunkin’ Donuts Park in Hartford will officially open on April 13, 2017 when the Hartford Yard Goats host the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in an Eastern League game. However, a “soft opening” of the ballpark was held on April 11, 2017 when the University of Hartford hosted Quinnipiac University in the first-ever game at DD Park.
Entrance to Dunkin’ Donuts Park
In a word, “quirky” is how I would describe the brand new Dunkin’ Donuts (DD) Park in Hartford, CT, home of the MiLB Hartford Yard Goats.
Is it a nice Minor League ballpark? Sure. For starters, it’s new. If you want to be sarcastic, you can say it should be nice given that it took an extra year to open, although that was really due to in-fighting between the park’s owner (the city of Hartford), operator (Hartford Stadium Authority), Yard Goats’ management, architects and developers (Centerplan and then Whiting-Turner). Then there’s the $71 money spent on the stadium, which was originally supposed to cost $56 million.
Why do I call it quirky? First and foremost, there is a net covering the entirety of the lower right field deck. Apparently, after construction had begun, they realized the right field wall was going to be too short a distance from home plate for current ballpark standards, so they decided to cover the first deck with a net similar to protective netting around the home plate area. Balls hit off the netting are in play.
Seeing it in person last night, I’m not a fan of it. Even worse, it’s awful for anyone sitting in the right field first deck, having to look through the net. I can only wonder if there wasn’t a better solution (e.g., plexi-glass?). Whatever the case, it’s a significant flaw.
View from the first deck of right field
More quirkiness: The visiting bullpen is beyond the left field wall, but the home bullpen is tucked away under the first deck of right center field. I can only assume that given the small footprint there was to work with, they had to shoehorn the home bullpen in where they could.
Walking around the stadium, there are windows to look into the home bullpen from outside of the stadium, and also get a decent look at the rest of the field.
View of the home bullpen from outside the stadium
Speaking of walking around the stadium, one of the concerns since the ballpark was first announced was the location. In short, the stadium is not in the greatest area. There is parking essentially across from the stadium for $5. I chose to drive a couple of blocks from the stadium and park on the street. I didn’t feel uncomfortable making the walk, but that is in part due to the significant police presence around the stadium. There had to be at least 10 uniformed police officers stationed at different points around the stadium, including some rovers. I can only imagine what that cost the city (at least 10 police officers ‘x’ their hourly rate for roughly 5 hours). I wonder if the police presence I saw last night will remain the same as the season goes on, or if last night was more for show.
Back to the stadium. It clearly was made with corporate folks and socialites in mind, rather than true baseball fans. There are plenty of suites, including a couple around the home plate area. Bluntly, the stadium will distinguish between the “haves” and the “have nots.” If you are fortunate enough to work for or have connections with companies buying suites and corporate tickets, you’ll sit in the best seats and probably enjoy the stadium.
Concession prices are not cheap, either. You’ll feel like you are at a Major League ballpark given what things cost.
Some DD Park concession prices
Then there’s the video scoreboard in left field. It’s impressive, although it wasn’t working correctly for the soft opening, so hopefully they get those issues sorted out.
DD Park video scoreboard
Another problem in the soft opening was that the stadium lights suddenly went out in the top of the 8th inning of last night’s game. I read this morning that the lights were set on a timer, which is why they went off. It took 15 minutes for the lights to come back on, with a total delay of about 20 minutes.
No lights = game delay
If we take all of the negative things (e.g., the cost, how will the city recoup the investment, the delays and related finger-pointing, etc) out of the equation, DD Park is a nice ballpark. Like I said at the beginning, it’s quirky. Some will probably like the quirkiness, especially those fortunate enough to get suite tickets. Considering myself more of a baseball purist than a casual fan, I’m not a huge fan of the stadium based on my first game there, but I am at least glad that there is baseball being played in DD Park.