August 21, 2017

Worcester businesses push for PawSox relocation

The Worcester Bravehearts are the main baseball team in the city right now, typically breaking attendance records for the Futures Collegiate Baseball League.

The Red Sox' top minor league affiliate is considering relocating to Worcester, and that potential move has city officials and local business leaders excited.

Nearly 100 business leaders signed a letter from City Manager Edward Augustus to team owner and former Boston Red Sox president Larry Lucchino – who toured a potential Worcester ballpark site – urging him to move the team to Worcester.

Among the business leaders signing the letter were Timothy Murray, president and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce; Laurie Leshin, president of Worcester Polytechnic Institute; Eric Dickson, president & CEO, UMass Memorial Health Care; and Michael Angelini, chairman of law firm Bowditch & Dewey.

The next level

Moving Triple A Red Sox from Pawtucket, R.I. to Worcester would bring the city's revitalized economy to the next level, said Augustus.

Ed Russo, co-chair of the Canal District Business Network and was among those who signed the letter, said the move would be a significant investment in Worcester and the growing business network in the Canal District, which includes the vacant Wyman Gordon property eyed for the ballpark.

With the addition of minor league hockey team Worcester Railers coming to town and a practice facility being built in the Canal District, Russo said more development would help continue a grassroots rebuilding of the area that is more than a decade in the making.

The Canal District Alliance, he said, has done great work in reshaping the business culture in the area, but it will take deep pockets from an organization like the Red Sox to finish the job.

The site

The main property eyes for the minor league stadium at 105 Madison St., valued at $3.64 million, is a brownfield, according to the Department of Environmental Protection.

It has been the site of contamination of hydraulic oil and fluid, arsenic, ethene, lead, petroleum and other chemicals, according to DEP documents.

The property would face a costly cleanup, but Russo said the land would be perfect for a ballpark.

"It would be a perfect use for that space," he said.

State support

The team was seeking an $83-million stadium in Pawtucket and was asking for $38-million in public money from both the city and state to supplement the $45 million from the team to replace the aging McCoy Stadium.

If Worcester were to come up with such a promise, the city's delegation on Beacon Hill would need to pitch the idea to the rest of the House and Senate to help pony up state support.

To do so and garner more local support among taxpayers, legislators and city leaders need to explain the money wouldn't come directly out of the pockets of residents, Russo said.


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