Hartford steam plant defends its moving cost
By Tina Cassidy, Globe Staff, March 19, 1999
HARTFORD -- It all boils down to . . . a steam plant.
Stung by criticism that it is holding out for an unreasonable price, a
steam plant company distributed copies of its property assessment as proof it
needs about $48 million to cover the costs of relocating its Hartford
headquarters to make way for a new stadium for the New England Patriots.
But local business leaders, though eager to bring the team here, said they
are willing to contribute no more than $25 million to move the offices of CTG
After two days of terse recriminations between Connecticut Governor John G.
Rowland and CTG's chief executive, Arthur Marquardt, the two sides were no
closer to bridging the funding gap -- or to resolving a related dispute over
terms of moving the plant. Failure to do so could kill the stadium deal.
While that prospect has caught the attention of Massachusetts political
leaders, key players in last year's efforts to keep the team in Foxborough
said that for now they are watching from the sidelines.
Marquardt, at a press conference in the company's nondescript concrete
offices, suggested his shareholders would not pay the difference. And Robert
Kraft, owner of the Patriots, doesn't want to pay for it either, according to
people close to the situation.
In the absence of other businesses stepping up with money, that would leave
Nutmeg State taxpayers, many of whom are unhappy that public money would
finance construction of the $374 million stadium along the Connecticut River.
``They will not be asked,'' said Rowland spokesman Dean Pagani. ``The
governor has made clear there's no more state money to be put on the table;
$374 million is enough.''
That money was approved by the General Assembly in December to build the
Patriots a new home. But in the rush to get the deal done, Rowland did not set
aside funds to relocate CTG's building. And agreement on a plan to cover the
estimated cost of $47 million to $60 million to move the steam plant, which
sits on what would be the stadium's field, is being held up by what Rowland
has called unreasonable demands by CTG.
The negotiations are being further strained by an April 2 deadline by which
the state must prove three things to Kraft: That the steam plant can be moved
in time for stadium construction to begin by the summer of 2000; that the team
will not be liable for environmental damage on the site; and that there is
ample funding and planning to allow parking lots around the football field to
empty in one hour after games.
Increasingly wary of the time frame, officials have been trying to downplay
that deadline in recent days. According to the agreement between the team and
the state, there is a 30-day window beyond April 2 for Kraft to decide if he
wants to continue pursuing a Hartford stadium.
A Patriots spokesman had no comment yesterday.
Meanwhile, in Boston, spokeswomen for Governor Paul Cellucci and Senate
President Thomas F. Birmingham said the leaders are closely watching Hartford
events, but could do little other than refile bills that died last year
offering up to $72 million in land and infrastructure aid for the team to
rebuild in Foxborough.
And House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran, whose fierce opposition to public
funding for a stadium prevented a deal in the team's home state, remained
immutable yesterday. ``I don't sense that there has been any shift at all,''
Finneran said. ``The Senate bill was dreadful in the view of most members,
and it set us on a path that could not be sustained or justified. The
precedents attached to that one were staggering.''
Finneran has refiled his own bill, offering $57 million strictly for
improvements to infrastructure along Route 1 in Foxborough, even though Kraft
said that legislation was not enough to keep the team in Massachusetts.
Finneran's political foil, Rowland, may be paying a price for his
enthusiasm to lure the Patriots to Hartford as part of a $1 billion urban
Yesterday, a soft-spoken Marquardt, standing next to a panel of architects
and construction specialists who valued the office relocation at $48 million,
said he was surprised the state was only now scrambling to cover the expense.
``If you want a project like this to work, you have to do the due
diligence, do your homework, and make sure you have a funding mechanism. That
was evidently not done, and it's not the fault of the people who happen to be
working here,'' Marquardt said.