A proposed new Worcester, MA ballpark for the Pawtucket Red Sox (Class AAA; International League) cleared a hurdle Wednesday, when a city council committee approved the agreement.
As first announced last month, the PawSox’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.
That plan is not final, but it did move forward on Wednesday, when the proposed agreement and financing package were approved by the City Council Economic Development Committee. The three-member committee unanimously backed a package that calls for borrowing $100.8 million for the ballpark’s construction, along with some tax-relief deals for a private developer that will be involved in the overall redevelopment project. More from the Telegram & Gazette:
The package also provides three tax-relief deals for Madison Downtown Holdings LLC, the private developer of the proposed $240 million public/private redevelopment project.
Madison Downtown Holdings is looking to invest $90 million in construction of two hotels; 225 units of market-rate housing; and some 65,000 square feet of retail/restaurant space on 17 acres of largely vacant and blighted land now owned by Wyman Gordon Co. on both the north and south sides of Madison Street.
Bonds for the ballpark, which will be built by the city, are to be paid off by new property taxes, lease revenues and other new revenue sources generated by the private development. [City Manager Edward M.] Augustus said the ballpark project will be “self-sustaining” and will not use existing tax funding or require an increase in property taxes.
The deal also waives the first $2 million of building permit, water connection and sewer connection fees for Madison Downtown Holdings.
Wednesday’s vote comes in advance of the proposal going before the full Worcester City Council. The council is set to consider it next Wednesday, and full city council approval is one of the hurdles remaining for the proposed move of the PawSox from Pawtucket, RI and the construction of the new ballpark. 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.
Under the terms of the proposal, the total cost of the ballpark is expected to be between $86 million and $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.
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