Now that the Pawtucket Red Sox (Class AAA; International League) are targeting a new Worcester, MA ballpark, officials are starting to consider the future of McCoy Stadium.
The PawSox’s ongoing effort to replace McCoy Stadium has led them to Worcester, where the club’s ownership and the city 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.
The move to Worcester is not at all finalized, but if it goes through, it will leave Pawtucket and Rhode Island officials with a decision to make regarding the future of McCoy Stadium. Territorial restrictions could complicate, if not outright halt, any attempts to bring affiliated Minor League Baseball back to Pawtucket. That would seemingly leave unaffiliated independent baseball as the clearest path to a professional team in Pawtucket, but the condition of McCoy Stadium–the oldest active ballpark in Triple-A baseball–would have to be addressed. Given the financial implications of maintaining McCoy Stadium as an active facility, officials will have to decide whether to leave it in operation or to pursue other opportunities for the site. More from the Providence Journal:
Independent league teams, and even smaller affiliated clubs, don’t usually play in stadiums as large as the 10,000-seat, city-owned McCoy, which the state pumps thousands of dollars into each year to maintain.
This year’s state budget includes $300,000 for repairs at 76-year-old McCoy, including fixing leaky expansion joints.
Given McCoy’s condition, Rhode Island’s economic focus for Pawtucket could be away from baseball.
A spokesman for Rhode Island Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor on Monday said Pryor has been meeting with Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien and the two will soon speak publicly about possible new opportunities for the city.
Had the PawSox moved forward with plans for a new downtown Pawtucket ballpark, it would have rendered McCoy Stadium economically obsolete for baseball in the city. However, faced with the loss of professional baseball all together, the issue for Pawtucket officials could be whether to use McCoy Stadium to lure another club or ultimately demolish the facility. The potential loss of the PawSox also has implications for the downtown Apex department store site that was targeted for a new Pawtucket ballpark, as it could seemingly be used in another economic development initiative.
The PawSox had been working on a new-ballpark plan in Pawtucket for several years, and this year saw the Rhode Island General Assembly pass a plan calling on the PawSox to make a $45 million contribution to a new downtown Pawtucket ballpark, with the state paying $26 million and the city allocating $18 million. In addition, the team would pay $12 million after approval of the plan. However, the legislation approved by Rhode Island officials left open several uncertainties, as it withdrew state backing of the bonds and instead put it on the back of bondholders, which was likely to result in higher borrowing rates.
That said, the Worcester plan still has to clear some hurdles before it is finalized. 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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