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McCoy Stadium Future Could Revolve Around Sports

McCoy Stadium

No decisions have been made yet, but Rhode Island state officials indicate that a sports-related proposal could end up shaping the future of Pawtucket’s McCoy Stadium.

Following the 2020 season, the Pawtucket Red Sox (Class AAA; International League) will depart McCoy Stadium and move to a new ballpark in Worcester, MA. With the team’s move approaching, Pawtucket and Rhode Island officials have been mapping out the ballpark’s future, issuing an RFP earlier this year that drew six responses. Two of those responses called for leaving McCoy Stadium open for professional baseball, with current PawSox minority owner/vice chairman Mike Tamburro part of a group seeking to keep affiliated Minor League Baseball at McCoy Stadium. Meanwhile, a bid led by Frank Boulton calls for placing an independent Atlantic League team at the facility.

A committee continues to work through the responses, aiming to identify and zero in on its leading options soon. When providing an update on the process, Rhode Island Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor indicated that the committee is likely to focus on sports-related proposals. More from WPRI:

The McCoy Stadium and Pawtucket Downtown RFP Review Committee met Thursday morning behind closed doors at the R.I. Commerce Corporation headquarters to consider the six proposals that have been submitted. Two proposals included baseball use, two on soccer stadiums, and two focused on music or family entertainment venues.

“We do believe that an athletic component, a sports component, is likely to emerge as one of the elements in the revitalized Pawtucket,” Pryor said. He added that the committee is hoping to narrow down the concepts in the coming weeks as well as zero in on likely companies or organizations to partner with.

In theory, a focus on sports could be a boost to either proposal to place a professional baseball team at McCoy Stadium, though the same could perhaps be said of two bids that include plans for an off-site professional soccer stadium. Per an April press release from the Commerce Corporation, AJAX Advisors, LLC is proposing to build a new downtown Pawtucket stadium for an independent soccer team while repurposing the McCoy Stadium site for light industrial use. A separate bid from Brett Johnson of Fortuitous Partners calls for a new downtown stadium for a United Soccer League club, with McCoy Stadium redeveloped into a recreational park that includes multipurpose athletic fields.

When considering the prospects of an affiliated MiLB team playing at McCoy Stadium after the PawSox’s departure, there are a number of factors to keep in mind. Given baseball’s territorial rules, there’s only one ownership group with rights to Pawtucket, and that’s the current PawSox group. The likeliest scenario has the PawSox owners involved at some level with another team at McCoy Stadium–say, one of the two Short Season A NY-Penn League teams for sale with a short-term lease–after the PawSox move to Worcester. Management of the Lowell Spinners (Short Season A; NY-Penn League), a Boston Red Sox affiliate, has been adamant about not seeking a move to Pawtucket and has emphasized its commitment to Lowell. Meanwhile, with the proposal by MLB to eliminate most of the NY-Penn League, awarding a lease to a group seeking to keep Minor League Baseball in Pawtucket is problematic, at best.

Should professional baseball in any form continue at McCoy Stadium, there will likely be consideration of how to best modify the facility. That would likely include discussions as to how best address repairs at the aging facility–which originally opened in 1942, and underwent its last major renovation in 1999–and what can be done to alter it for a lower level of play.

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