The Boston Red Sox may be fighting for the playoffs, but their Triple-A farm club is also in a fight. The fight is now between Worcester and Pawtucket for the Triple-A club.
A lively topic in the barren expanse west of Boston is the possibility of the Pawtucket Red Sox moving to Worcester as reported by several sources.
What is the second most populous city in New England? The usual answer is Hartford, Connecticut – America’s filing cabinet – or Providence, Rhode Island and even Portland, Maine, but it is Worcester, Massachusetts. Worcester is in that area that makes it filling between Boston and Springfield, but almost 200,000 live in Worcester.
"“If the PawSox move from Pawtucket, I’d be happy to entertain the possibility of them moving to Worcester,” Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty"
The Red Sox top farm club is the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox, who now reside at McCoy Stadium in that great gateway to Central Falls. What Pawtucket lacks in size it makes up with the fact it is in an attractive location to draw fans from the greater Providence area.
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The issue is McCoy. The stadium is antiquated despite two renovations and expansions – one in 1992 and the other in 1999. Both were necessary to make sure even minimum standards for International League stadiums were being met. I have been to McCoy many times and it is “quaint,” which is a polite way of saying completely out of date.
In the last several year’s proposals have been put forth for locating the PawSox in a new state of the art – translation: expensive stadium – with locations in Providence. One along the waterfront that is now in the past tense and the other that has died at an old Apex Department Store site that is the latest. The issue is simply one of money. The new team ownership – fronted by Larry Lucchino – certainly have alligator arms in the fiscal maneuvering.
Another possible solution is yet another renovation of ancient McCoy, but that apparently has faded since repair may cost as much as replace. That, however, does not do anything to dissipate the ire over public financing, which is now the roadblock to keeping this prize in little old Rhody. The legislature, with some significant public blowback simply sees this as an unnecessary use of tax dollars.
The decision time has passed on July 1 when Pawtucket lost exclusive negotiating rights with the PawSox management. That, of course, allows others cities – most notably Worcester to consider the Triple-A club carrion. That brings us back to what may actually be the front-runner – Worcester.
Worcester is in a growth spurt and is now a “hot” city – similar to Providence back 15 or 20 years ago. A building boom is taking place – a Renaissance is a term often tossed about to make the sudden influx of developer dollars seem more palatable as rents go up and up. The PawSox ownership even took a tour of potential sites.
"“The City of Worcester has spoken with the leadership of the PawSox and communicated our openness to the possibility of having them come to Worcester if they decide to leave their current home,” Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus"
Worcester apparently has the backing of the political infrastructure and even public support. A post card mailing of over 10,000 was directed to the PawSox ownership. Nothing like a premier minor league franchise to give a boosterism a rally around the mini Red Sox failing – schools, roads, and infrastructure be damned.
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Will it happen? The PawSox are certainly in an enviable position. Two or more bidders wanting the team and possibly fund a new stadium. At this point, if a front-runner exists, it would have to be Worcester based on public comments by the politicians and the citizenry. I have a son that lives in downtown Worcester and this is as welcomed as a new Dunkin’ Donuts to him.
If the stadium goes forward in Worcester it will be a success. Lucchino may not be among my favorite baseball people, but his track record is exemplary for breaking new ground, building a stadium and getting it filled. They will most certainly make money and Worcester will most certainly fund a good portion of a beautiful state of the art stadium.
The impact on the Red Sox is negligible. I-95 is a bit more frustrating than I-90, but it is also closer to Fenway Park for the players hustling back and forth. I can even see greater use of cooperative marketing with the Red Sox. Buy a Monster Seat and get two tickets to the Worcester whatevers. So that is a big nothing.