Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.43
Dunkin’ Park 1214 Main St. Hartford, CT 06103
Year Opened: 2017 Capacity: 6,121
The GOAT of Minor League Ballparks?
Dunkin' Park is sporting a new, streamlined name to reflect the change in branding of their corporate naming rights sponsor for the 2023 season.
The saga of the building of Dunkin’ 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 , and a battle between the city and the contractor ensued. Eventually, construction was stopped, the contractor was fired, and a new company was 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 in 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’ 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.
2023 will be the sixth season in Hartford for the franchise, which dates 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’ 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. Coca-Cola products are featured at Dunkin’ Donuts Park.
The longest concession lines at Dunkin’ Donuts Park are at Bear’s BBQ, which has been moved from its traditional left field spot to a new location behind the batter's eye. Lines are as long as ever for 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 the 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.
The best way to describe the game day experience at a Yard Goats game is “organized chaos.” Activities are going on in virtually every nook and cranny of the ballpark, and the compact footprint here 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 video board in left field, complete with an extra-extra large Dunkin' coffee cup on top, dominates the presentation and is put to good use throughout the game with stats, videos, and other promotions.
The Goat Pen, which features live goats, is a popular destination for not only the younger fans in attendance but all fans. The Yard Goats employ a pair of mascots, Chompers and Chew Chew, who roam the park interacting with fans and participating in promotions.
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’ 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 has been completed across Trumbull Street from the park.
While the restaurants and hotels of downtown Hartford are only a few blocks from Dunkin’ 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 that 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.
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’ Park.
Dunkin’ 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.
Most fans will drive to Dunkin’ 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’ Park is located in the 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.
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’ 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.
A pair of extra points are awarded for the awesome 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’ 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’ Park opened twenty years to the day of the Whalers’ final game.
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’ Park seems to be bucking that trend as they play their sixth season in downtown Hartford, with crowds that continue to increase every year. Complaints about the long road to building the ballpark have disappeared as Connecticut baseball fans enjoy one of the best ballparks in all of the minor leagues.