With almost 49,000 voters weighing in on the top Double-A facilities, Dunkin’ Donuts Park, home of the Hartford Yard Goats, was the winner in the third-annual Best of the Ballparks fan vote from Ballpark Digest. It is the first time a new facility has won a Best of the Ballparks vote. Fans selected Dunkin’ Donuts Park over Peoples Natural Gas Field, home of the Altoona Curve, in a bracketed online competition at ballparkdigest.com that saw over 178,000 fans vote on their favorite minor league ballparks.
“We are extremely proud to hear that fans voted Dunkin’ Donuts Park as the best Double-A ballpark in the country,” Yard Goats General Manager Tim Restall said. “We want to thank all the fans for taking time to vote over the past few weeks and for Ballpark Digest for having this contest to help showcase Dunkin’ Donuts Park on a national level. This is such a wonderful honor and we have been completely overjoyed by the outstanding fan support at our games in Hartford this season.”
The Yard Goats have played in front of capacity crowds 15 times. This past weekend, 19,956 fans watched the Yard Goats in Hartford. Dunkin’ Donuts Park has been sold out completely in each of the last three weekends (Friday through Sunday) and filled to capacity in 11 of the past 17 home games.
Voters were asked to choose among Eastern, Southern and Texas League ballparks in five rounds of voting. Last year’s top vote-getter among Double A stadiums was Pensacola Bayfront Stadium, home of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. In this year’s voting, Dunkin’ Donuts Park was seeded sixth when the voting began.
Dunkin’ Donuts Park is the first brand new venue to open in the Eastern League since Northeast Delta Dental Stadium—home of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats—opened its doors in 2005, and it is seen as the biggest change to the league’s facility landscape since the extensive multi-phase renovation to the Harrisburg Senators’ FNB Field was completed prior to the 2010 season.
“Dunkin’ Donuts Park is one of the great stories in Minor League Baseball in 2017,” said Ballpark Digest publisher Kevin Reichard. “The Yard Goats front office persevered during a rough 2016 season and never wavered from a commitment to creating the best possible fan experience. That commitment to fans helped Dunkin’ Donuts Park snare a great honor in a highly competitive field.”
The stadium includes 18 luxury suites and two other suites adjacent to the dugouts, a kids “fun zone” just beyond the center field fence with an inflatable slide and bounce house and a glassed-in batting cage, which will allow fans with premium tickets to watch the players practice.
The Yard Goats are in their second year after moving 15 miles north from New Britain, where the team played through the 2015 season as the Rock Cats. The club was forced to play its games on the road last year when construction delays caused the opening of Dunkin’ Donuts Park to be pushed back numerous times, ultimately to this season.
The team, an affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, is the first professional baseball club to call Hartford home since the Hartford Chiefs in 1952. The team’s home opener earlier this year was played on the 20th anniversary of the home finale for the NHL’s Hartford Whalers.