A Worcester City Council committee unanimously endorsed a revised Polar Park funding plan Monday, allowing the Worcester Red Sox (Class AAA; International League) and city officials to move forward with addressing increasing costs in the project.
Currently under construction, Polar Park is scheduled to open in 2021 for the current Pawtucket Red Sox, who will relocate to Worcester following the 2020 season. Last month, it was revealed that the total cost estimate for the project had risen by about $30 million, including a $9.4 million increase in construction costs for the ballpark itself and an additional $20 million for development costs, including property acquisition, site preparation and relocating area businesses. To cover those increases, Worcester officials and WooSox ownership are floating a plan that calls for the team to cover the additional $9.4 million in costs for Polar Park, while the city picks up the increase in development costs.
That plan cleared an initial legislative hurdle on Monday, when it was endorsed by the three-member Worcester City Council Economic Development Committee. It is slated to go before the full Worcester City Council later this month. More from the Worcester Telegram & Gazette:
Councilor-at-Large Kathleen M. Toomey and District 1 Councilor Sean M. Rose both praised the work of the city manager and his administration for being able to revise the financing plan for Polar Park and keep the project financially self-supporting, despite the roughly $30 million in increased costs.
Construction of Polar Park was initially estimated at between $86 million and $90 million. When land-takings, demolition and site preparation were added, the overall cost of the ballpark project had been pegged at $100.8 million.
But in the 18 months since the ballpark project was announced in August 2018, construction costs for Polar Park have increased by about $9.4 million over initial estimates. That increase was attributed to construction costs having gone up by 5% in each of the past three years and the need for more extensive architectural solutions because of unique site grade issues.
Meanwhile, the $20 million in additional costs for site preparation for the ballpark included the cost of acquiring 11 properties, relocation costs for businesses, as well as hazardous materials abatement of both soils and buildings, building demolition, removal of underground structures and general site work.
Polar Park is being built as part of a larger redevelopment of the surrounding Kelley Square/Canal District. New development is slated to include an office building behind the ballpark’s left field wall, two hotels and residential buildings, and a mixed-use building that will feature retail, office, and lab space. The city is counting on new tax revenues from private development in the area to help pay off costs on the project, along with parking revenue from Polar Park events.
The PawSox will return to Pawtucket’s McCoy Stadium for 2020, before making the move to Worcester. When Polar Park does open, it will be the International League’s first new facility since the Charlotte Knights opened BB&T Ballpark in 2014.
Rendering courtesy City of Worcester.
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