Financing for a new Worcester, MA ballpark for the relocating Pawtucket Red Sox (Class AAA; International League) is taking shape, as officials are planning a special taxing district around the facility.
The six-acre ballpark, tentatively named Polar Park, is slated open for the 2021 season and serve as the centerpiece of a 650,000-square-foot mixed-use development. As part of the funding formula for the $86 million-to-$90 million ballpark, the city of Worcester will borrow $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.
A key part of that funding model is potential private investment in the surrounding area, as Worcester officials say increased tax payments generated from the project, including additional development, will cover the remaining costs beyond those covered by team’s rent. In order to leverage that revenue, Worcester officials must authorize a District Improvement Financing area, the Massachusetts equivalent of tax-increment financing. Plans for the proposed 28.6-acre district–the Canal District Ballpark DIF Development District and Invested Revenue District–will be presented during a city council meeting on Tuesday, a step toward potentially having it approved in the coming weeks. Approval of this district is key, as it must be authorized before the city sells bonds for the project. More from the Telegram & Gazette:
“Through this designation the city has been able to leverage private investment to offset the cost of infrastructure and roadway improvements in the area of CitySquare,” [Worcester City Manager Edward M.] Augustus wrote in a report that goes before the City Council Tuesday night.
Mr. Augustus said approval of the Canal District Ballpark DIF Development District and Invested Revenue District is needed before the city can sell bonds for the ballpark project.
Because time is of the essence, the manager will be asking the council Tuesday night to refer his recommendation to its Economic Development Committee for a hearing.
He said District 2 Councilor Candy Mero-Carlson, who chairs the three-member Economic Development Committee, has indicated that it will hold a hearing before the regular City Council meeting on Oct. 23, with the intention of reporting its recommendation to the full council later that same evening.
Under the current plans, the PawSox will spend the 2019 and 2020 seasons at Pawtucket’s McCoy Stadium before relocating to Worcester. Construction on the new Worcester ballpark is slated to begin next July, and wrap up in March 2021. Naming rights for Polar Park will come from Worcester’s Polar Beverages.
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