Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Will Hartford's baseball stadium be a model for Springfield?

By Zachary Baru

Going to the Comcast Theater in Hartford a few weeks ago was interesting.  No it wasn't the thousands of people for the concert or all of the tailgating that was happening in the area, it was the progress of a construction site not too far from the music venue.  The construction for Dunkin' Donuts Park is underway, along the fence of the site reads a banner displaying a completion date of 2016.  

It may just be a construction site for now, and the stadium may be far from completion, but one thing you cannot criticize Hartford for is progress.  They are getting things done, and doing so rather quickly.  It was just last year that the New Britain Rock Cats' move to Hartford was announced, and now a completion date of 2016 is set.  While many people may say "I'll believe it when I see it", just the construction alone in Hartford should be enough to make Pioneer Valley sports fans excited for some of the ideas that have been announced by the city of Springfield.  

We've heard all of the ideas and possibilities before.  A baseball stadium, an iMax theater, an aquarium, and so on.  What we have seen so far is a new Basketball Hall of Fame and surrounding mixed-use development, the renovation of a rail station that is finally getting the attention it deserves, and the planned $800 million resort casino that will bring economic benefits to downtown Springfield.  The time has never been better to push for a baseball stadium to complement this growth in Springfield.

As we watch Hartford do what it takes to strengthen their economy, what will Springfield do to help establish their own?  A new baseball stadium provides an excellent opportunity to attract tourism and and economic activity to an area that already will be rejuvenated by the opening of the Union Station Regional Intermodal Transportation Center in 2016.  A baseball stadium is an opportunity to parley this economic growth in the "New North" district with a destination for families from across the region.  Let's make that destination Springfield, and let's hope Hartford's plans become a model for similar economic development in Springfield.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at zachbaru@gmail.com.

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