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Challenge For New Worcester Ballpark: Neighborhood Integration

New Worcester ballpark concept

Initial planning for Worcester’s Polar Park, opening in 2021 as home to the relocating Pawtucket Red Sox (Class AAA; International League), has designers calling for plenty of social gathering spaces and neighborhood integration in the new ballpark.

Paw Sox management, architects and design consultants met with city leaders to discuss their goals for the new facility. For the most part, what they envision fits squarely within current ballpark design trends: a capacity of 10,000 (though not 10,000 fixed seats) that includes plenty of group areas and social spaces, with plenty of areas to walk around and view the action from different angles. And, say the designers, integrating the ballpark with the surrounding neighborhood is a definite goal, according to MassLive:

“Can the outfield concourse be open all the time?” asked Tommy Quirk of DAIQ, a Worcester native. “Yes, we’re looking at that.

“Obviously you don’t want people walking into the building willy nilly when the building’s closed,” Quirk added, “but we feel that there’s probably a way to locate the secure limit of the building in a way that maximizes pedestrian access to the spaces around the park.”…

Around the ballpark, public spaces could have moveable furniture and games.

“Part of the beauty of this idiosyncratic kind of space that we’re tucking ourselves into in the middle of Worcester is that we’re going to have not just one big, public, open space, but a series of them,” said Susannah Ross of Sasaki. “They all invite play. They all in some ways reflect the history of Worcester and the uniqueness of Worcester, whether that’s water or elements related to the trains, to the diners, to all the really cool things, the candlepin bowling, things that were born here in Worcester.”

Opening parts of a ballpark for casual use has been a goal for many teams. Parkview Field, home of the Fort Wayne TinCaps (Low A; Midwest League), opens its concourse daily at 7 a.m. allowing for all-day access for walkers, and Peoria installed a municipal splash pad at Peoria Stadium for family use throughout the year, not just for Mariners and Padres spring-training games. And, of course, many ballparks hosts events on non-game days. A dog park at CHS Field, home of the St. Paul Saints (independent; American Association), is open daily. And, of course, parts of the Atlanta Braves’ SunTrust Park are open daily, including the Terrapin Taproom and an adjoining plaza.

The ballpark will cost $86-$90 million, and is envisioned as the anchor of an 18-acre, $240-million redevelopment initiative. The funding formula for the ballpark calls for the City of Worcester to 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 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. Construction is slated to begin this summer and lead to a 2021 opening, while the PawSox will spend the 2019 and 2020 seasons at Pawtucket’s McCoy Stadium.

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