A Possible Epitaph for Provident Bank Ballpark
July 17, 2014 In a New York Times story “One Team, Two Cities and None Are Happy,” it seems politicians in Hartford, Connecticut, are having a hard time coming up with the $60 million they need to build a minor league baseball park for the New Britain Rock Cats. The public doesn’t want it, and the push to get private funding is proving to be as difficult as industry analysts predicted it would be. The public resistance comes from a concern over tax increases and cuts to social services, and the Times points out that, “Hartford’s plan to draw private investors faces steep hurdles.” Sounds a lot like the early stages of the plan to build Provident Ball Park for a team from the Can Am League. Back then, here in Ramapo, any private investor spending more than a half-hour on a risk analysis of the venture wouldn’t go near it, and the public also voted not to fund it with taxpayer dollars.
In Hartford, the Times asked Miles Wolff last week for his opinion of the situation. What he said should be very upsetting to those few taxpayers left in Ramapo who still think the ballpark is going to be profitable some day and ticket sales will help pay off the enormous debt, some of it reaching out 30 years.
Miles Wolff was quoted by the Times as an industry analyst because he’s the Commissioner of the Can-Am Baseball League. If the name sounds familiar that’s because the Can-Am League is a baseball league with four teams: the Rockland Boulders, the NJ Jackals, the Quebec Capitales, and the Trois-Rivieres Aigles. That’s not a regional division, that’s what remains of the whole league. When St. Lawrence lied about who was going to foot the bill for this $70 million money pit, the Can Am League had eight teams, including the just born Rockland Boulders. Half the league has gone belly up since then.
When the Commissioner was asked for his two cents on the situation in Hartford and how difficult it was to find private financing, Miles Wolff offered the following candid assessment: “To think they could even come up with a third of stadium costs is not possible. Ballparks don’t make money. That’s why they’re public facilities.” Translation: If the taxpayers ain’t payin’, nobody’s gonna be playin’.
We offer the following suggestion. In light of Supervisor St. Lawrence’s egregious lie (“The stadium will be built with private money. There will be no taxpayer dollars. I got the message.”) and the scary, rapid decline of the League that a painted metal banner be attached to part of the center-field wall with an inscription below that sets the record straight.
“Ballparks don’t make money.”
Miles Wolff, July 11, 2014
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