OPINION: A train trip to Hartford and a lesson for Meriden

OPINION: A train trip to Hartford and a lesson for Meriden

This past weekend, the weather forecast called for a “perfect, sunny, 80 degrees, low-humidity day.”

So, thinking “outside of the box” — something my wife usually regards with suspicion — I asked if she would like to try something different. How about taking the train to Hartford to see a Yard Goats baseball game and have lunch there?

Even though Nancy is not a baseball fan, she agreed to join me. I was having trouble finding the train schedule, but Nancy quickly found it so we hustled to the new Meriden Transit Center with three minutes to spare to get the northbound train to Hartford. It made only one stop (in Berlin) and in 25 minutes we arrived at Union Station in Hartford. We asked directions to the stadium and it was a leisurely 12-minute walk.

As we approached the stadium ticket office, we were told it was sold out: standing-room-only tickets. While we were disappointed that we were not able to get into the game, it was nice to see Hartford having a great success with the new Dunkin’ Donuts Park, especially after all the critics panned this as a disaster and failure. “Who wants to come to Hartford to see a minor league baseball team?” said the critics. As it turns out, lots of people.

(Note to self: In the future, get tickets ahead of time!)

We left the stadium and headed into downtown Hartford for lunch. During the walk I was struck by the many magnificent skyscrapers, unique structures, and wonderful architecture all around.

Nancy spotted a building with lights on, so we ambled over to check it out.

It was a restaurant by the name of V’s Trattoria (directly across from the Hartford Stage Company). It was nearly deserted but a very friendly waitress greeted us enthusiastically and gave us our choice of tables. The place had a nice, comfortable ambience with an open flamed-filled oven. We ordered the specialty drink: a Ruby Vodka with a tinge of grapefruit (something we sure wouldn’t have gotten at the ballpark). It was the perfect cocktail for a summer Sunday afternoon. We had a delicious lunch and agreed we would definitely come back again.

As we were leaving the restaurant, I asked the waitress how the stadium was doing. She said it was “fantastic.” (In fact, she has been to several games herself.)

She also noted that business has picked up and it is doing better than anyone thought. It was so refreshing to hear some good news about Hartford after all the negatives.

After lunch we headed back in the direction of Union Station. On the way, we passed Bushnell Park which looked absolutely grand with the lush green grass. We could see the state capitol up on the hill with its gold dome brightly glistening.

I stopped to take a photograph. A block away was Union Station where we purchased our tickets back to Meriden (our total cost for the two-way tickets was only $9 dollars, $4.50 each).

This was cheaper and faster than driving and parking — and much less stressful. The train was right on time, and in 25 minutes we were back in Meriden.

This was a great way to spend an afternoon and we will do it again.

On the train back, I was thinking about our server’s positive comments regarding Hartford and it got me thinking about some recent news in Meriden: a Record-Journal story about a new auto parts store (O’Reilly Auto Parts) opening on the formerly vacant lot at the corner of Broad and East Main streets.

There had been a flurry of Facebook posts in response to this story with mixed reactions.

While many thought this was a good thing that after many years we are getting a tax-paying business there (O’Reilly Auto Parts is a national company with annual revenues of $8.9 billion), others were not happy to see another auto parts store. One Facebook post said (sarcastically) “we will soon have more auto stores than D&D’s (although we will now have the same number as we did before because the auto parts store on East Main St. and Swain Avenue had closed). Facts matter.

I believe if a business wants to invest in Meriden and passes the planning, zoning, and permitting processes, good for them — and Meriden.

Elected officials do not dictate to the business community what business they must invest in. The city should do its best to create the positive conditions that promote business investment and that share Meriden’s vision.

It is also important for Meriden residents to support these businesses. Just like Harford Dunkin’ Donuts Park is overcoming some of its critics with positive results, I am hoping Meriden will do the same. I remain “Positively Meriden.”

Michael S. Rohde is a former mayor and city councilor of Meriden.


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