The Worcester City Council voted overwhelmingly to move forward with a new ballpark for the relocating Pawtucket Red Sox (Class AAA; International League), initiating the bonding process and TIFs for the surrounding area.
The votes were not close: 9-1, with one abstention.
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.
Under the financial 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. Naming rights for Polar Park will come from Worcester’s Polar Beverages.
Last night the City Council voted to begin the bonding process with initial approval for loan orders of $100.8 million, as well as approving TIF financing deals for a hotel development and apartments at the ballpark site. Worcester has not had affiliated baseball since 1934; in recent years independent and summer-collegiate teams have served the area. From the Worcester Telegram:
“This is really about a proud moment for our city and a historic moment for our city,” said District 2 Councilor Candy Mero-Carlson. “There is so much excitement in this city about this, Never, ever have I seen so much excitement.”
Mayor Joseph M. Petty called the Kelley Square project, which includes the construction of an $86 million to $90 million city-owned baseball stadium and $90 million in associated private development, one of the biggest and most important economic development projects going forward in Worcester in his lifetime.
He praised Mr. Augustus and the team he assembled for the job they did in negotiating the deal with the PawSox, as well as other community players that were involved including the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, local businesses and neighborhood leaders.
“The city manager did a wonderful job putting this together,” Mr. Petty said. “It was a community effort to get this Red Sox team. They know they are welcome here, they are very welcome.”
The private development is expected to generate a profit of $22 million over 30 years.
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