New Britain Stadium - New Britain Bees
Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.00
New Britain Stadium 230 John Karbonic Way New Britain, CT 06051
Year Opened: 1996 Capacity: 6,146
The city of New Britain has been the home of professional baseball in Central Connecticut for almost four decades. In 1983 the city was able to attract the AA Eastern League affiliate of the Boston Red Sox away from the nearby city of Bristol. The New Britain Red Sox’ home, Beehive Field, was a simple ballpark consisting almost entirely of bleachers.
The ballpark was typical of early 80s construction and was obsolete soon after it was completed. In 1994 the Red Sox made a deal with the city of New Britain to build a new ballpark that was up to AA standards. Shortly after making this agreement, the Red Sox moved their affiliation to Trenton, New Jersey.
At this point, the Minnesota Twins moved their AA team to New Britain. Initially called the Hardware City Rock Cats, the Twins called New Britain home for 19 seasons before an affiliate swap brought the Colorado Rockies to town for the 2015 season.
During the 2015 season, it was announced that the Rock Cats would be leaving New Britain for a new ballpark, Dunkin’ Donuts Park, in downtown Hartford, 13 miles away.
Into the vacuum stepped the independent Atlantic League. They christened the new team the Bees, alluding to the city’s motto- “industry fills the hive and enjoys the honey”. In addition, a beehive is prominent on the city emblem and flag as a symbol of industriousness.
The Bees were never able to compete with the runaway success of the Yard Goats and struggled to attract fans during their four years of competition. In October of 2019, the team announced they would be moving to the Futures League, a summer wood-bat collegiate league that competes in former minor league ballparks around New England. The summer-league Bees have qualified for the playoffs in one of their first three seasons, losing in the first round in 2022.
Food & Beverage 4
Only a pair of concession stands are open during Bees games, but they are more than adequate to serve a typical crowd. The stands have slightly different menus.
All the usual ballpark fare can be found here, including burgers, grilled chicken sandwiches, sausage and pepper sandwiches, Martin Rosol’s hot dogs, and kielbasa. Chicken tenders, nachos, and French fries are available as well. An assortment of snacks can be purchased at either concession stand. There is a Dippin’ Dots cart on the concourse for fans looking to satisfy a sweet tooth. Wraps and Veggie Burgers are available for fans looking for a healthier option.
Bottled Pepsi products are featured at New Britain Stadium. Fans looking for an adult beverage will find a selection of national beers, including Pabst Blue Ribbon, Miller Lite, and Coors Light, along with craft brews from local favorites Alvarium, Two Roads, and Five Churches Breweries.
Even during its days as home to affiliated baseball, New Britain Stadium never featured an over-the-top game day presentation or lively atmosphere. Now that this 6,000-seat ballpark is filled to a fraction of its capacity, the laid-back game days continue. While many Futures League teams try to fill the natural pauses in a baseball game with noise, contests, or other shenanigans, the Bees play it closer to the vest.
One of the main issues holding back the game day presentation is the lack of a functioning scoreboard. Rumor has it that the scoreboard was hit by lightning one night, but I was unable to confirm this. Whatever the cause, the video portion of the scoreboard has been out of commission for some time now.
There is a mascot, Sting, who roams the ballpark interacting with fans throughout the game. The PA announcer does his job in a professional, unobtrusive manner. No between-inning shenanigans are going on at a Bees game, but the energy level of the children in attendance makes up for the lack of a forced atmosphere. One complaint would be that without any ushers in place, many kids crowd around the dugouts looking for autographs throughout the game, without any consideration for fans sitting in the area.
New Britain is a city of 73,000 located about ten miles southwest of the state capital of Hartford. It is best known as a manufacturing center and home of Stanley Black and Decker. This gives the city its nickname as the Hardware City. The Rock Cats called themselves “Hardware City Rock Cats” for two seasons in 1995 and 1996.
New Britain Stadium is located adjacent to New Britain High School and Willow Brook Park. Also located in the sports complex with the ballpark are Veterans Memorial Stadium and Beehive Field. Despite the park’s urban location, there isn’t a whole lot to do near the ballpark.
Most out-of-town visitors to New Britain will choose to venture on to Hartford or the casinos of eastern Connecticut, just an hour away, rather than stay in the city.
The Bees have struggled to attract big crowds in a town used to having professional baseball. While the team generally sits third or fourth in the Futures League attendance rankings, crowds of 1,500 are a far cry from what New Britain Stadium held during its professional seasons. The Bees do still have their share of regulars, but the majority of the crowd here on any given night consists of families looking for an affordable entertainment option.
Attendance in New Britain has declined over the years. At their height, the Rock Cats averaged over 6,500 fans per game, with attendance decreasing to just over 4,000 fans per game in the team’s final season. The independent Bees were never able to attract more than 3,300 fans per game, with attendance dwindling every season.
Getting to New Britain Stadium is a snap, as it is easily accessed by Interstates 84 and 91. Located right off Route 9 near downtown New Britain, exit 24 will drop motorists off at the entrance to the ballpark’s parking lot.
The concourse at New Britain Stadium does not offer a view of the playing field. Several sets of stairs access a walkway located about one-third of the way up the seating bowl. Seats in the 100 level consist of folding plastic stadium seats, while box seats in the 200 level feature molded plastic bucket-style seats. The three sections furthest down either baseline consist of metal bleachers with backs.
One of the more popular spots from which to take in a game is the Alvarium “Beer Hive” located at the top of the seating bowl. This area features drink rails and bar stools along with the brewery’s signature craft beer.
Netting at New Britain Stadium stretches from one dugout to the other, meaning that if you want an unobstructed view, you will need to purchase seats further down the either foul line, in sections 101-105 or 114-118. With a typical Bees crowd numbering about 1,000 fans or less, there’s plenty of room to spread out and roam. Restrooms, built for much larger crowds, are more than large enough for a typical Bees crowd and are still in good shape.
Return on Investment 4
All seats at Bees games are sold as general admission for nine dollars. There is no surcharge for purchasing tickets online. Parking is free in the large lot adjacent to the ballpark. Concessions are reasonably priced, making a night at a Bees game a most affordable entertainment option for Central Connecticut sports fans.
The New Britain Sports Hall of Fame Display is located on the stadium concourse. You will be sure to find some familiar names among the 292 nominees honored here.
New Britain Stadium was once described as “The Camden Yards of the Minor Leagues.” While this statement was surely a case of hyperbole, New Britain Stadium served as a solid, if unspectacular, home for minor league baseball for over two decades. Construction of Dunkin’ Donuts Park in downtown Hartford may have ended professional ball in New Britain, but it’s great to see the facility continue as home to organized baseball.
The Futures League has given new life to several other New England ballparks that otherwise would have faded into history. The league includes teams in Burlington, Pittsfield, Norwich, Brockton, Worcester, and Nashua that used to house pro teams but have seen them leave for newer, more modern parks.