With at least three Massachusetts communities expressing an interest in hosting the Pawtucket Red Sox (Class AAA; International League) should the team leave Rhode Island — which looks more likely every day — we could see a bidding war emerge.
Officials from three cities — Worcester, Springfield and New Bedford — have expressed interest in hosting the team now that a new Providence ballpark is all but dead, and a move from McCoy Stadium is all but assured when the team’s lease ends in five years. Now, the talk from these officials is predictably cautious — no promises, nothing but a vague expression of interest — which is what you’d expect from any smart businessperson at the start of negotiations. But the talk is no surprise: we reported interest from Massachusetts cities last May, and many Rhode Island baseball fans are going to surprised when the team moves; judging by our email, it seems many just assumed things would revert to the past and the team would play forever in Pawtucket.
To what extent we’ll see more cities enter negotiations will be interesting. It would not be surprising to see a Boston suburb — say, Framingham — enter the fray as well, and it would not be surprising to see another New England official emerge to explore the costs and potential of having a little Red Sox magic descend on their fair cities. However, beginning with three pretty strong markets — Worcester, Springfield and New Bedford — expressing interest in hosting the PawSox is a good start.
Nothing is likely to happen quickly, however; as noted, the PawSox still have committed to the McCoy Stadium lease for five more years. While a new ballpark could be built in a year or so, it will take longer than that for design and financing.
One interesting question: if the PawSox do indeed move to Massachusetts, what becomes of the greater Rhode Island market? McCoy Stadium and Pawtucket may not be the future of Triple-A baseball, but there’s an argument to made for the city and ballpark hosting Double-A ball — if the Red Sox allow it.
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