On Hartford vs. New Britain baseball, Malloy won’t swing

New Britain — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy strongly distanced himself Wednesday from Hartford’s efforts to coax a minor-league baseball team from New Britain into a $60 million stadium the financially struggling capital city promises to build in time for the 2016 season.

“We are not involved,” Malloy said flatly after an economic-development event to celebrate the expansion of an aerospace manufacturer in New Britain.

Malloy, who is eager to stay on good political terms with the predominantly Democratic voters in Hartford and New Britain as a first-term Democrat seeking re-election, said his administration played no role in the plan announced earlier Wednesday by his ally, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra.

“This is not a position I’d want to put myself in to begin with,” Malloy said. “If you are asking me if I’m anxious to play a role in a battle between New Britain and Hartford, I am not. Nor am I.”

New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart, who has yet to be formally told by the team, the Rock Cats, of any intention to move, said she appreciated the governor’s remarks. Stewart, a Republican, said the governor’s staff made the same point in a private call.

Stewart said there are no unresolved economic or maintenance issues with the Rock Cats’ present home, which costs them about $108,000 annually, compared to $500,000 projected for the new park in Hartford. The team recently set a weekend attendance record.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District, whose district includes New Britain, was happy to take sides:

“For twenty years, families have come to New Britain Stadium to watch the Rock Cats. We are proud of our team and what it brings to our community. The Rock Cats should stay at home in New Britain.”

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, a Republican candidate for governor, said sports stadiums are a bad investment of public dollars — something he learned when Danbury considered building a minor-league stadium in 2003.

He quoted from a 2001 article by Adam Zaretsky for the Federal Reserve of St. Louis: “The weight of economic evidence, however, shows that taxpayers spend a lot of money and ultimately don’t get much back. And when this paltry return is compared with other potential uses of the funds, the investment, almost always, seems unwise.”

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