Carberry says Norwich should 'forcefully seek equal treatment' on stadium tax issue

Norwich – Attorney Glenn Carberry led the city's effort to build a minor league baseball stadium in 1994, and still proudly boasts that Norwich, with some help from the state, built the Thomas J. Dodd Memorial Stadium “on time, on budget for $9.8 million.”

In a presentation to the City Council Monday, Carberry repeated that statement, credited a bipartisan coalition of city leaders at the time and summarized that the stadium has attracted nearly 5 million people to games and events.

Carberry then turned to the present and questioned why Norwich was left out of a vital tax assistance program the state legislature bestowed on the stalled scandal-plagued $60 million Dunkin' Donuts Stadium and to the New Britain stadium vacated by the minor league baseball team moving to Hartford.

“So, what did the General Assembly do?” Carberry said in his presentation Monday. “They decided to reward incompetence. In the dead of night in May, they stuck into the budget implementer bill a provision providing special tax benefits for the Hartford and New Britain stadiums.”

Hartford and New Britain – which now has an independent minor league team – were allowed to retain revenue in the 10 percent state admission tax per ticket for stadium needs. In Hartford, the money would help offset the debt the city incurred.

In Norwich, the Connecticut Tigers minor league baseball team has ticket prices of $8, $9 or $10 for regular seating and $20 for skybox seats. Team General Manager Dave Schermerhorn said the team pays the state the tax monthly, along with state sales tax owed.

The Tigers drew 78,855 fans in 2015. Schermerhorn could not provide a breakdown of the ticket prices sold last year. At the minimum $8 ticket price, the admission tax would total $62,870.

Carberry recommended the Norwich City Council pass a resolution “advocating equal treatment for Dodd Stadium.” He said city leaders should meet with local state legislators "to forcefully seek equal treatment"at Dodd Stadium.

The 22-year-old stadium needs attention, Stadium Authority Chairman Michael Jewell wrote in a letter to city leaders last November. The aging and obsolete lighting must be replaced with new LED lights, estimated at $400,000.

Upgrades to pavement and drainage were estimated to cost $250,000, and a new roof could cost $600,000. Not included in the list is a plan approved by the authority this spring to extend protective netting to the ends of each dugout.

Authority members said with the team's annual rent payment, $115,000 this year, going to the city's general fund, the authority has "fiscal responsibility without financial control."

Carberry did not address the specifics of the authority's capital improvement needs, but said the stadium needs upgrades to remain an asset to the region.

“This work is needed to maintain the quality of the stadium which serves as a sports center and event facility for the City and the entire region,” Carberry said. “You should be prepared to go forward to fund this work in a responsible way with or without the admissions tax money, but if we succeed in changing the law, the Stadium may be able to pay for (the annual bond costs for) these repairs itself with no additional cost to customers or taxpayers.”

c.bessette@theday.com

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