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WooSox, Worcester agree on Polar Park lease

The city of Worcester and the Worcester Red Sox (Class AAA; International League) came to a final Polar Park lease agreement that puts the project’s final price tag at $117 million, including $17 million in project overruns.

The $17 million in project overruns will be covered by the team, although the city will be borrowing it: $10 million to cover realized costs and $4 million to cover the cost of borrowing the sum. The city’s maximum share of funding Polar Park is $104.5 million.

The final 35-year Polar Park lease agreement will be slightly different than earlier tentative leases and the original letter of intent, per the Worcester Telegram:

In consideration for handling the financing for the team to cover the additional costs, the final lease agreement that will go before the Worcester Redevelopment Authority, which is overseeing construction of the ballpark, includes adjustments that in some areas reduce the city’s financial risk and call for increased commitments from the team, and in other areas give the city bigger shares of various revenue sources….

The city manager said $1.62 million of the $17 million in additional costs were directly attributable to COVID-19, including a 7-week shutdown in the spring and a host of logistical and scheduling changes to accommodate social distancing. Supply chains were also effected, and design changes factored into the increased costs on the project. 

Augustus said the loan taken out on the team’s behalf will be “fully supported” by annual payments by the team, in addition to payments over the lease period on $31 million the city has already borrowed on behalf of the team. The combined payments will form the basis of the team’s payments to the city for use of the ballpark.

In return, the WooSox agreed to a number of changes, including extending the lease from 30 to 35 years; agree not to move the team for 25 years, up from 15; increase the facility fee from $1 to $2 per ticket; and letting the city off the hook for a guaranteed $3.1 million in corporate sponsorships.

The full city council is expected to approve the Polar Park lease at its Jan. 15 meeting.

The WooSox are relocating from Pawtucket’s McCoy Stadium for the 2021 season.

Purely reported as a matter of nostalgia: a new candlepin bowling alley is part of the development surrounding Polar Park. Those of a certain age may remember when Fenway Park sported a candlepin bowling alley.

Photo courtesy Polar Park.

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