Review by Gary
Dunkin Park is the Double-A home of the Hartford Yard Goats, located in downtown Hartford, Connecticut. My eagerness to attend a game in Hartford was a combination of wanting to see a brand new stadium, but more so the fact that this would be the 100th different ballpark I have visited. My excitement looked like it might be dashed as we walked up to the park to see long ticket lines. Upon seeing signs on every ticket window reading “Standing Room Only”, I was just hoping to get admission to the park and was relieved to grab a ticket. I think the Goats ended up letting everyone in that night as the place was packed! In 20-plus years of attending minor league baseball, I have only been turned away 3 times due to sell out. The Hartford Yard Goats were unable to play any games in this park as they planned in 2016 due to construction delays and instead played all of their home games on the road that year. So 2017 would be the inaugural season for the Goats new home.
Dunkin Park is a fantastic ballpark. Just down the street from XL Center Arena, the stadium lets fans take advantage of numerous open-air and garage parking lots nearby. Greeting you when you walk up to the main entrance of the stadium is a huge 1,200-pound bronze deer standing on the roof of the ticket office. Hartford is known as the home of many insurance companies and this buck is the mascot of The Hartford Insurance Company. Once inside the park, everything you see is goat-themed. A team-naming contest had Yard Goats as the winner and while I’m willing to bet that 95% of the fans don’t know what a “yard goat” is, 100% of those in attendance were excited to have a professional team in Hartford for the first time since 1952! As a side note, in 1922, Lou Gehrig was “illegally” paid to play for the Hartford Senators under the name Lou Lewis while he was in college… until he got caught. He is featured on a huge team photo inside the stadium. I did not find goat on the concession stand menu, nor could I find anything pertaining to railroads in the stadium. (Note: A yard goat is an old rail term for locomotives that stay in the railroad yards, shuffling cars from track to track). This name is certainly better than the runner-up… the Whirlybirds. The font of the team name is the same as the “New York, New Haven & Hartford” rail line of the past and the team colors are a tasteful homage to the old NHL Hartford Whalers.
Having SRO tickets guaranteed that I’d spend the evening orbiting this goat-riddled place! Ushers at each section wear shirts that say “Goat Herders” on their backs, the restrooms have huge images of the team mascots, male (Chompers) and female (Chew Chew) and the backs of the swivel seats around the park have the Yard Goat logo in them. Every seat in this stadium is within 25 feet of the field itself. The most unusual aspect of this stadium is the right field wall, with a 333-foot sign behind the beer stand. Of course, it is behind a net and out of play, but the wall itself is a short one with a high home run line that stretches from the RF pole to centerfield. Fans can opt to sit below the line behind a net that keeps the ball in play or in seats above the HR line hoping to catch a moon shot.
I really like stadiums that enable fans to walk around the whole park while still being able to see the game. On this night, the ushers, er, goat herders, let fans sit in areas usually reserved for private parties like the picnic area in LF or in the terraced beer garden high above the 1st base line. The media room that controls the scoreboards and audio/video has a glass wall that enables fans to take a peak behind the scenes. Whether just sitting in the comfy seats with plenty of legroom or stretching your legs to check out every aspect of the wonderful stadium, Dunkin Park is a must-see for all ballpark enthusiasts.