A proposed downtown Providence waterfront ballpark is dead, as the Pawtucket Red Sox (Class AAA; International League) ownership informs state leaders that they’ll search for another Rhode Island site — and staying at McCoy Stadium isn’t an option.
House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello says he was informed by PawSox managing partner Larry Lucchino that the team would not be pursuing any plan for a downtown site envisioned as a public green space, a conversation confirmed by Lucchino in a follow-up statement. The issue was clear: putting together a deal for the ballpark was growing more complicated by the minute, leading Lucchino (who has a reputation for being a dogged negotiator) to conclude that a new PawSox ballpark would be impossible to achieve. From the Providence Journal:
“They kind of just wanted to let me know that they were officially pulling out of that deal, [and] consideration of that property, because they could not secure the land,” Mattiello said. “And [they] indicated to me that they had no particular prospects that they were considering, that they still loved the state of Rhode Island and would prefer to stay here but they would have to consider all options.”
Lucchino said: “We were told it was not going to be a suitable site and there were too many obstacles that remained, and we … heard loud and clear what we were being told.”
Lucchino said the team is still looking in Rhode Island, but he said he would not talk further Saturday night. He said he was returning The Journal’s phone call from his birthday celebration with family in Pittsburgh. Asked whether any Massachusetts communities have reached out to the team, Lucchino said, “No comment.”
But at least one has reached out, at least informally and unofficially, from what we’re told: Worcester, which is on Lucchino’s radar. Right now the PawSox are limiting their search to a Rhode Island ballpark. But the minute it becomes apparent there’s no public money for a new ballpark anywhere in the state, you can bet cities like Worcester or Springfield (the great white whales of more than one MiLB owner, including Ben Mondor at one point) or even suburban Boston locales in the form of Framingham will be pitching some level of woo at the PawSox.
The assumption from many PawSox fans, if our inbox is any indication, is that with a Providence dead in the water, the team will be content to stay at McCoy Stadium. Not so: Mattiello and Lucchino say that the Pawtucket ballpark is economically obsolete, and there’s no reason to put money into any upgrades:
“McCoy is a model that no longer works,” Mattiello said. “The problem with McCoy is it’s going to need a significant investment and nobody is going to invest a significant amount of money into a model that does not work.”
Staying in Providence may mean looking at the so-called Victory Place lot once pitched as a PawSox ballpark site, but that seems to be a huge challenge as well. At 5.3 acres, the site is far too small for a Triple-A ballpark, so you’d need to acquire other adjoining parcels for a ballpark and parking — as well as acquire the land from Lifespan, which owns a hospital across the street and may just bank the land for future expansion. Lifespan purchased the land earlier this month — a transaction that indicates both buyer and seller doesn’t think a ballpark is slated for the small lot any time soon.
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