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Dunkin’ Donuts Park – Hartford Yard Goats


Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.29

Dunkin’ Donuts Park 1214 Main St. Hartford, CT 06103

Hartford Yard Goats website Dunkin’ Donuts Park website

Year Opened: 2017 Capacity: 6,121

 

The GOAT of Minor League Ballparks?

The saga of the building of Dunkin’ Donuts Park is an interesting one that has been told in detail on this website. In short, when the franchise announced it was leaving New Britain for Hartford, a contractor was hired who had much local experience, but who had never built a sports facility before. Design plans changed and changed again, construction lagged behind, and a battle between the city and the contractor ensued. Eventually construction was stopped, the contractor was fired, and a new company hired to finish the job. While all this was happening, the Yard Goats were forced to play their entire 2016 season on the road. The new ballpark opened for the 2017 to rave reviews and hasn’t looked back.

You may be asking yourself, “What exactly is a Yard Goat?” Well, a yard goat is a railroad term for the switch engines or terminal tractors that move railroad cars between different locomotives. This name was chosen from among over 6,000 Name the Team submissions. Since Dunkin’ Donuts Park is located adjacent to the Hartford Rail Yards, this nickname makes sense. It also easily lends itself to the use of animal imagery, which the team uses masterfully in its logo, merchandise and presentation. The team’s primary blue and green colors are a nod to the Hartford Whalers, which called the XL Center, located just a few blocks from the ballpark, home.

2022 will be the fifth season in Hartford for the franchise, which dates all the way back to 1965. Over the years, the franchise has called Waconah Park in Pittsfield, MA, McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, RI, Muzzy Field in Bristol, CT and Beehive Field and New Britain Stadium in New Britain, CT home. That doesn’t even count the 2016 season, which was spent entirely on the road due to construction delays at Dunkin’ Donuts Park. During the franchise’s long history in the Eastern League, it has won five championships, most recently in 2001.

Food & Beverage 5

As is the case with most new ballparks built today, concessions are a major focus here at Dunkin’ Donuts Park. All the ballpark standards can be found at the various concession stands and portable carts. Fans looking for something a bit different may want to try the chicken and waffle bites or burgers featuring goat cheese. Many items can be combined with chips and a soda to create a combo meal and save a few dollars. Pepsi products are featured at Dunkin’ Donuts Park.

The longest concession lines at Dunkin’ Donuts Park are at Bear’s BBQ, which runs a large stand in left field selling their popular brisket and pulled pork sandwiches. Chowder from local favorite the U.S.S. Chowder Pot is sold at the Dark Blues Diner concession stand.

Of course, Dunkin’ Donuts runs a concession stand here, where fans can purchase various pastries and Dunkin’s famous iced coffees. Bacon-wrapped Munchkins are sold at the Screaming Goat concession stand and fried chicken sandwiches featuring donuts as buns are sold at the Dark Blue Diner.

The craft beer game is strong at Dunkin’ Donuts Park. In addition to your standard national brews, local favorites City Steam Brewery and Thomas Hooker are sold throughout the ballpark. City Steam’s Naughty Nurse is a favorite of Stadium Journey. The Alvarium Beer Hive in right field features beers brewed in nearby New Britain. In addition, beers from Kona Brewing (HI) and Lawson Brewery (VT) are among the many craft beers featured throughout the ballpark.

Atmosphere 4

The best way to describe the game day experience at a Yard Goats game is “organized chaos.” There are features and activities going on in virtually every nook and cranny of the ballpark, and DDP’s compact footprint ensures that you’ll be able to take in every single one of them.

Greeting fans as they enter the ballpark is an oversized photo of the original Hartford Eastern League entry, the 1946 Hartford Chiefs. Underneath, the day’s Yard Goat lineup is well, lined up with giant player photos. The giant video board in left field, complete with the oversized coffee cup on top, dominates the presentation and is put to good use throughout the game with stats, videos and other promotions.

The lifting of COVID precautions has meant many ballpark features have returned for the 2022 season, including the kids’ play area behind the center field batter’s eye and the Goat Pen, which features live goats on Sunday afternoon games. The Yard Goats employ a pair of mascots, Chompers and Chew Chew, who roam the park interacting with fans and participating in promotions.

Neighborhood 4

Hartford is dissected by a pair of interstates, I-84 and I-91, which meet right at the banks of the Connecticut River a long fly ball’s distance from the ballpark. Downtown Hartford, the state capital, the XL Center and virtually all of Hartford’s skyscrapers, restaurants and tourist attractions are located to the southwest of this intersection. Dunkin’ Donuts Park is located on the other side of I-84 in an underdeveloped parcel of land in a long neglected neighborhood.

The ballpark is to be the centerpiece of a larger development plan called Downtown North (DoNo). Housing, retail space, restaurants, a brewery and a supermarket are all part of the master plan for the site. The area is starting to develop, as an apartment complex is under construction across Trumbull Street from the park.

While the restaurants and hotels of downtown Hartford are only a few blocks from Dunkin’ Donuts Park, Interstate 84 serves as a physical and psychological barrier separating the ballpark from the downtown region. Downtown Hartford has long suffered from a poor reputation, which keeps many fans from exploring the area. This is unfortunate, as downtown Hartford is a safe area which features a great many restaurants and points of interest worth checking out before or after a Yard Goats game.

A detailed map of downtown Hartford’s dining and lodging options can be found here.

Fans 5

Yard Goat fans have made this one of the toughest tickets in the area. It is recommended that you purchase tickets in advance if heading to Hartford, particularly for weekend games. Even with an affiliation with the distant Colorado Rockies, many dedicated Goat fans are knowledgeable about their team.

The Yard Goats annually rank at or near the top of the Eastern League attendance listings. As is the case at most minor league games, a Yard Goats crowd is a mix of serious baseball fans, casual fans out for a night on the town and families. There’s a serious buzz all around Dunkin’ Donuts Park.

Access 4

Dunkin’ Donuts Park is located at the intersections of Interstates 91 and 84 a stone’s throw from downtown Hartford. Traffic in the area can be heavy, so give yourself adequate time to arrive at the ballpark. Detailed directions can be found here.

Most fans will drive to Dunkin’ Donuts Park, where parking is available in several surface lots and parking garages within a short walk of the ballpark. For fans wishing to search for it, on-street parking is available on the streets of downtown, but the convenience of the lots trumps these spots. Fans using public transportation will arrive at Union Station, a half mile from the ballpark. Detailed parking and transit information can be found here.

The main entrance to Dunkin’ Donuts Park is located in right field. Fans will enter into a narrow 360-degree concourse that can be quite cramped when there is a big crowd in attendance (this is most nights, BTW). The concourse contains views of the field from most spots, but it does dive in and out of sight in the outfield. Unfortunately, there is precious little standing room available, as reserved bar stools take up residence atop much of the seating bowl. For best views of the Hartford skyline and the action, seek out the standing room in front of Bear’s Barbeque in left field or at the Budwieser Sky Bar in centerfield.

The seating bowl in this bandbox of a ballpark is small and features fantastic sight lines no matter where you sit. Stadium Journey recommends the upper level seats in right field, where you are a mere 305 feet from home plate. It’s a rare combination of outfield seats that feel right on top of the action and distant from the crush of the crowd. Be warned, the ball comes at you out here in a hurry.

Return on Investment 4

Tickets to Yard Goats games range in price from $23 for swivel top bar seats to $11 for left field grandstand seats. Purchasing tickets in advance will save you three dollars. Active members of the military receive an additional two-dollar discount. Tickets in the Hartford Terrace sections cost $23 and include access to the club level.

Parking in the lots and garages near Dunkin’ Donuts Park costs five dollars. There is some on-street parking downtown but pay attention to when meters are in operation.

Be prepared for a bit of sticker shock when purchasing concessions, particularly at the craft beer stands. A large beer will cost you $14.25. Overall, ballpark standards are priced in line with other venues in the area, but specialty items can get a bit pricey.

Extras 4

A pair of extra points are awarded for the awesomely tongue in cheek way the team has used its unique name to promote itself, through varied merchandise and outstanding social media channels. The goat theme runs throughout the ballpark, too, with goat-themed menu items, concession stands (i.e. The Screaming Goat) and even live goats in attendance on Sunday afternoons.

Historic banners located throughout Dunkin’ Donuts Park earn an extra point. A giant team photo of the Hartford Chiefs greets fans as they enter the ballpark in right field. Plaques detailing Hartford’s baseball history along with other notable Hartford sports teams line the concourse. Concession stands such as The Dark Blues Diner and Huck’s Hot Corner give a nod to Hartford’s baseball past.

While it has become a cliché in Connecticut to tie a sports team in with the long-departed Hartford Whalers, the Yard Goats deserve an extra point for their efforts. From the blue and green color scheme to the hockey style jerseys and alternate logos used for “Whalers Weekend,” the baseball team pays homage to the city’s last Major League franchise. A great tidbit of trivia: Dunkin’ Donuts Park opened twenty years to the day of the Whalers’ final game.

Final Thoughts

It feels like a lot of new ballparks attract big crowds for a few years until interest fades and attendance settles in at a lower baseline. Dunkin’ Donuts Park seems to be bucking that trend as they begin their fifth season in downtown Hartford, with crowds that continue to increase every year. Complaints about the long road to build the ballpark have disappeared as Connecticut baseball fans enjoy one of the best ballparks in all of the minor leagues.

Follow Paul Baker’s stadium journeys on Twitter and Instagram @PuckmanRI

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