Norwich, Connecticut Tigers reach terms for new long-term lease of Dodd Stadium
Norwich — A short-season Single-A minor league baseball team will occupy the Thomas J. Dodd Memorial Stadium for many years starting in 2020 — but it won’t be called the Connecticut Tigers, and the stadium name itself could see a bit of a makeover.
City leaders and team owner Miles Prentice and General Manager Dave Schermerhorn reached a proposed long-term lease agreement Friday during a two-hour closed-door meeting at City Hall. The parties would not disclose details, including length of the lease and annual rental payments, until the agreement is presented to the City Council at the April 15 meeting during executive session, possibly followed by an open session vote to approve the lease.
“All the terms are done,” Mayor Peter Nystrom said after Friday’s meeting. “We’re looking for a long-term commitment to seal their stay in the city. We’re working on strengthening the partnership between the team and the city.”
A proposal by Prentice, announced following the March 22 negotiation session, to put “Norwich” in the team’s name is included in the lease agreement. Another provision allows for revenue sharing of naming rights on the stadium marquee, while keeping the Dodd name. The stadium could be called (sponsor name) Field at Dodd Stadium, for example.
“The name ‘Norwich’ is there,” Nystrom said. “The team logo and mascot are to be determined.”
Prentice declined to comment following Friday’s meeting.
The new lease, and any name changes, would take effect in advance of the 2020 baseball season. The Tigers, the New York-Penn League affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, will celebrate the team’s 10th season in Norwich this summer, while Dodd Stadium will mark its 25th anniversary.
The team’s initial lease was for a 10-year period expiring Dec. 31, 2019, but with three options for five-year extensions through 2034 under the same terms.
Team and city leaders hope for smooth approval of the terms finalized Friday to allow time to launch $800,000 in city-funded improvements to the aging stadium, including installation of new LED field lights, new heating and ventilation systems and improvement backstop security netting. Protective netting is proposed to extend along both dugouts, as is becoming common in both major league and minor league ballparks.
City Manager John Salomone said city officials are doing as much preparatory work as possible on the stadium improvements to launch the projects as soon as the lease is signed. The city is using state-approved contractors to avoid a drawn-out bidding process. A meeting of technical crews is slated for Tuesday at the stadium, Salomone said.
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