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Worcester Ballpark Design Could Influence Community Benefits Agreement

New Worcester ballpark concept

The design of a new Worcester, MA ballpark could influence its related community benefits agreement, according to a recent update on the discussions. 

Set to open in 2021 for the relocating Pawtucket Red Sox (Class AAA; International League), the new ballpark–dubbed Polar Park–is set to be the anchor of a larger redevelopment initiative in Worcester’s Kelley Square/Canal District area. As part of the planning process, it has been expected that the team’s ownership will enter into a community benefits agreement, which is expected to outline standards for areas such as racial equity in hiring, neighborhood affordability and stability, and other aspects of the project and its effect on the surrounding area.

While discussions about the agreement are underway, it is expected that a final deal will not be reached until the new ballpark’s design process is further along. As Worcester city manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. explained during a city council meeting on Tuesday, the ballpark itself could present opportunities and influence some parts of the agreement, but the exact scope will have to be fleshed out as the design process unfolds over the coming months. More from the Worcester Telegram & Gazette:

Mr. Augustus said he has had about a half dozen meetings with the Worcester Community Labor Coalition and a “small subset of their group.” He said they have been working with him and his team on coming up with a plan.

“We’ve had some very good meetings,” Mr. Augustus told the council in response to an order filed by District 3 Councilor George J. Russell, who had requested a status report and possible timeline for the community benefit agreement.

“We’ve put some stuff on paper,” he added. “Some of the information is going to require further design of the ballpark in terms of what opportunities that may present themselves to further provide for community benefits. I think we’re very far along in our discussions and making good progress.”

In August, soon after the Pawtucket Red Sox announced its plans to move the team to Worcester, the Worcester Community Labor Coalition called on Mr. Augustus and the team to sign a community benefit agreement to ensure that neighborhood and community concerns are addressed. More than 40 groups have also signed on to that letter.

Neighborhood integration is expected to be a goal of Polar Park’s design, and that could yield possible benefits and amenities for the surrounding area such as public spaces. 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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