HARTFORD, Conn. — After a year of construction delays, lawsuits, and plenty of finger-pointing, there is finally a baseball stadium in Hartford.

And it is a gem.

Dunkin’ Donuts Park opened last month for the 2017 season. The Portland Sea Dogs made their first visit Monday.

“They did a great job with it,” said Portland Sea Dogs infielder Mike Olt. “All the guys are raving about it.”

The Sea Dogs were enjoying the spacious clubhouse and indoor batting cages. Outside, the players emerged on immaculate green turf surrounded by seats all the way around, including a second deck in right field.

“It’s like a mini major league park. It has that stadium feel,” said Olt, who has played in the big leagues with the Rangers, Cubs and White Sox. Olt also speaks with come civic pride. He is from Branford, 40 miles south of Hartford, and played his college ball at UConn.

“This is exciting for Connecticut,” Olt said. “It’s a cool feeling being in the middle of the city.”

But this stadium was anything but a source of pride last year, when delay after delay forced the Yard Goats to play all their games on the road.

“It was crazy,” Hartford Yard Goats infielder Ryan McMahon said. “Bus trips every three to four days. We stayed in hotels the whole year.”

The Yard Goats had moved from nearby New Britain after the 2015 season, when they were known as the Rock Cats. New Britain Stadium was aging and its field was in rough shape with drainage problems. Josh Solomon, who became the principal owner of the Rock Cats in 2012, announced a move to Hartford, where a $56 million publicly-financed stadium was planned (right off Exit 50 of Interstate-84). The opening was set for April 2016.

Reports slowly came out about delays and overspending. But the Yard Goats were hopeful.

“It’s like renting an apartment,” Yard Goats General Manager Tim Restall said. “We didn’t build the apartment, but we have a lease starting on this date. And the person that’s building it says everything is all set, you’ll be able to move in.

“Then you go a couple days ahead of time, and you realize it’s not going to be ready.”

Restall, a New Hampshire native, previously worked for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats from its inception – when the team relocated from New Haven, Connecticut, in 2004.

The Fisher Cats were also scheduled to play in a new stadium in Manchester. But the Fisher Cats were able to utilize a refurbished local field – Gill Stadium – for a year while their new stadium was being constructed, set to open in 2005.

“We had a safety net,” Restall said.

There was no safety net in Hartford.

“That’s the frustrating part because obviously we want to play baseball here,” said Restall, who became general manager in 2013 when the team was in New Britain.

The stadium opening was delayed until May 17; then May 24. In June, the contractor was fired. According to published reports, the contractor blamed the delays on the city changing the stadium plans. City officials said the contractor was not forthcoming about the budget overages.

Eventually, the contractor filed a lawsuit against the city. A bank sued the contractor.

Meanwhile, the team stayed on the road for the rest of 2016.

“Just hotels and bus rides,” said Hartford outfielder Dillon Thomas.

A new builder resumed construction in the offseason, and the Yard Goats played their first home game in the $71 million stadium in April.

“It’s amazing,” Thomas said. “You look out and see the second tier out there. Just all around the ballpark, it screams big-league atmosphere.”

The stadium seats 6,121, with standing room for almost 2,000 more. Early in the Eastern League season, Hartford ranks second in attendance, averaging 5,202 (to Richmond’s 5,247).

The greater Richmond and Hartford areas are the two biggest in the league, between 1.2 million and 1.3 million according to census figures (Greater Portland is just over 500,000).

Hartford has a rich baseball history, beginning with the Hartford Dark Blues, a National League team in 1876.

The minor league Hartford Senators played from 1902-1932 and included a first baseman named Lou Gehrig.

Hartford’s best known sports team was its NHL franchise, the Whalers, which left Hartford to become the Carolina Hurricanes. That move was devastating to this region.

The Yard Goats christened Dunkin’ Donuts Park on April 13 – coincidently, the 20th anniversary of the Whalers’ last game – and a year after Hartford was supposed to be celebrating the return of baseball.

But baseball is here now.

“It wasn’t an easy year,” Restall said. “But listening to people talking about the ballpark, it has been worth the wait.”

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: @ClearTheBases