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Ballpark foes demand more Polar Park public financing data

Worcester Red SoxFueled by a financial analysis predicting doom and gloom, opponents of Polar Park public financing are demanding more details on the financial performance of the ballpark and the impact on downtown’s Canal District.

You can read the study here, but it’s really just a familiar laundry list of criticisms of any public spending on sports facilities–that any development claimed to be generated by a new ballpark would have happened anyway, that a ballpark draws no outside money to the city, that a new ballpark merely sucks up money that would have been spent elsewhere in the city. By their reckoning, the $160-million-plus ballpark is poised to lose between $40 million to $60 million for the city, a steep price for attracting the Worcester Red Sox (Triple-A; International League)

Now, the fact they don’t have the actual numbers for the ballpark district performance is a problem, one created by the city. Worcester officials were called out by two city councilors who have opposed Polar Park and the enabling Ballpark Commission from the beginning, who argue the city needs to be more open with the ballpark numbers. The city’s stance: the ballpark is now making money and covering bond payments after a rough debut year definitely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Indeed, we’d recommending reading our story on the ballpark’s FY2022 numbers to see how the city was expecting growth, which has arrived this year and planned for next, to cover future debt.) From the Worcester Telegram & Gazette:

District 3 City Councilor George Russell asked City Manager Eric D. Batista if Polar Park was making money and on target to pay its debt….

Batista responded that the ballpark is making money and is paying off the debt. He added there are no budget shortfalls from the ballpark in this fiscal year….

Russell said his general point is that there is a greater need for transparency around the ballpark, even though he trusts the city manager’s word about its finances.

“This ballpark has been a big item for many of the citizens of the city of Worcester. It’s been a great, great positive thing,” Russell said. “But it’s also something that has to be as transparent as possible. It’s something this council shouldn’t be surprised at and this community shouldn’t be surprised about.”

Indeed, the WooSox is one of the top draws in all of Minor League Baseball and generated enough local enthusiasm to snare the 2023 Best of the Ballparks fan vote award for Triple-A facilities. But passions run pretty deep on Polar Park public financing; we’re still receiving hate mail about how the ballpark ruined Worcester and will lead residents to financial ruin.

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