On Thursday, the new New Britain team in the independent Atlantic League unveiled its new name—one that has strong ties to New Britain’s baseball past. Formerly playing in Camden, N.J., and called the Riversharks, the team announced that it would relocate to New Britain for the 2016 season. On Thursday, it was announced that the team will be known as the Bees. The winning name was selected from the “final five” (all submitted by fans) that included the Stingers, the Hornets, the Hammer, and the Hard Hitters.
During the press conference announcing the new name, two team logos were unveiled. Team colors will be gold and black.
Long known as the “Hardware City,” and home to tool giant Stanley Black & Decker, the team’s nickname hearkens back to the city’s industrial past and its official motto: “Industry fills the hive and enjoys the honey.”
In addition, the team announced that Bill Dowling, the Rock Cats’ former president and part owner, will join the team as a “special consultant.” Dowling is credited with the marketing acumen that made the Rock Cats such a strong franchise—the “in thing” to do for families in central Connecticut during the summer—and he is confident that the community will welcome the Atlantic League with open arms.
“I’ll be working with sponsor organizations, businesses and community groups,” Dowling said at the press conference. “We’re going to replicate the Rock Cats experience, expand it and enhance it. I owe it to the 3 million fans who came through the gates when we owned that team. We made memories for families, and we’re going to do that again.”
New Britain mayor Erin Stewart gave credit to outgoing Bridgeport mayor Bill Fitch for brokering a meeting that brought Stewart and Atlantic League president Frank Boulton together in an effort to open up New Britain to an Atlantic League franchise—either an existing team wishing to relocate, or an expansion team—after the Rock Cats announced they were headed to Hartford for the 2016 season where they will be known as the Yard Goats. (“I’m not sure that would have been my first choice, but I didn’t have a vote,” Dowling told the Hartford Courant when asked his opinion on the Rock Cats’ new appellation.)
The Bluefish have been playing in the Atlantic League—widely recognized as the top independent (i.e. unaffiliated) circuit in the nation—since its inception since 1998, but have never had a natural geographic rival. The nearest thing to that, the Long Island Ducks, play in Central Islip, N.Y., nearly two hours from the Park City. That is one reason often cited in Bridgeport’s ongoing struggle to attract fans to the Ballpark at Harbor Yard. While the Bluefish experienced a minimal bump in attendance last year—about 600 more fans than 2014, pro-rated over a 66-game home schedule for an average increase of less than 10 fans per game—the team finished dead last in attendance for the fifth consecutive year, averaging just 2,916 paying customers per contest. Indeed, the ’Fish were the only team failing to crack the 3,000-fan barrier (including Camden). One might guess that if things don’t turn around immediately, Atlantic League baseball may soon be a thing of the past in the Park City—especially if their new neighbors to the north draw twice as many fans (a distinct possibility).
But in New Britain, it’s all good. “Baseball has been in New Britain since 1983,” said Stewart. “Our kids want to grow up with that. It’s a staple in our community,” she said, adding that she was absolutely thrilled to have her city a member of the Atlantic League, “hands down, the best” option available to fill the void left by the Rock Cats abrupt departure. Already, work has begun on upgrades to New Britain Stadium. A new infield is currently being installed. Poor field conditions has been speculated as one of the major reasons for the Rock Cats’ defection, although the chance to play in a brand-spanking-new stadium in downtown Hartford—the Nutmeg State’s capital and media center—is a far more likely motive.
The Bees will open the 2016 season at home on Thurs., Apr. 21, when they open a three-game series with the York Revolution. Then, following another three-game set in New Britain against the Ducks, they will head down to the Park City where they will meet the Bluefish in Bridgeport’s home opener on Thurs., Apr. 28.
For more information on the Bees, including breaking news, schedule and ticket information, visit the team’s website: www.nbbees.com. For information on the Bluefish, visit www.bridgeportbluefish.com.