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Worcester Looks to Assemble “Ballpark Delivery Team”

New Worcester ballpark concept

This week, a local authority will consider authorizing requests for services for a new Worcester, MA ballpark that is being planned for the Pawtucket Red Sox (Class AAA; International League).

The PawSox’s ongoing search for a new facility took a major turn on Friday, when it was revealed that the club’s ownership and the city of Worcester have agreed on a letter of intent to bring the team to a new Kelly Square ballpark. The six-acre ballpark, tentatively named Polar Park, would open for the 2021 season and serve as the centerpiece of an 18-acre, 650,000-square foot mixed-use development.

Work to finalize the planned ballpark is underway, and the Worcester Redevelopment Authority board could take some key steps at its meeting on Wednesday. In an effort to start assembling what is being billed as the “Ballpark’s Delivery Team,” the WRA is expected to consider approving the issuance of a request for services for a project manager as well as the issuance of a separate request for services for design work.

Officials are hoping that the city council will approve final financial terms for the project by the end of September. If the WRA does vote to authorize the issuance of the request for services this week rather than wait for the city council’s final decision on the funding, it would allow officials to more easily meet an October 10 deadline for hiring a project manager. More from the Telegram & Gazette:

The financing package for the stadium project, as well as the private redevelopment of roughly 18 acres near the Kelley Square area, will formally go before the City Council Tuesday night. At that time, the council is expected to refer it to its Economic Development Committee for review and public hearings.

Mayor Joseph M. Petty has said he hopes the council’s review and final action on [City Manager Edward M] Augustus’ proposed financing package can be done by the end of next month.

Instead of waiting for that to happen, thus leaving very little time before the Oct. 10 deadline, the WRA is looking to at least issue a request for services for those positions now so if and when the City Council approves the financing package for the project it can then move to fill them.

The WRA is a player in the project because the site where the stadium is going to be built is within the boundaries of its Downtown Urban Revitalization Plan.

The total cost of the ballpark is expected to be $90 million, with the city of Worcester borrowing $100.8 million ($70.6 million in general obligations bonds, $30.2 in bonds backed by team rent payments) to cover construction costs and the PawSox owners paying $6 million toward construction. Rent payments are pegged at a little over a million dollars annually, for a total of $30.2 million over 30 years. Worcester officials say increased tax payments generated from the project, including additional development, will cover the difference (a District Improvement Financing area — the Massachusetts equivalent of tax-increment financing — will be set up). Naming rights for Polar Park will come from Worcester’s Polar Beverages.

The proposed ballpark and relocation of the PawSox from Pawtucket, RI is not at all final, as several key decisions await. As noted, the Worcester City Council must sign off on a more specific lease based on the term sheet, and a vote is expected by the end of next month. Additionally, the plan still needs to be approved by the International League and Minor League Baseball, with Major League Baseball asked if it has any objections.

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