By Richard Campbell
According to various sources it’s official: The Boston Red Sox Triple A Paw Sox are moving to Worcester! Bill Ballou, sports writer for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette noted that the deal is sealed for 2021 season to open with the Red Sox minor league team in a brand-new stadium in downtown Worcester. Ballou, who has been following the progress of the deal stated in his article: “The ballpark will be named Polar Park. Construction is expected to cost in the range of $86 to $90 million dollars and will be one of the most technologically advanced in all of professional baseball. It is the centerpiece of a larger development plan that, according to Worcester Mayor Joseph M. Petty, approaches $240 million in investment.” Needless to say, this is a big boon for Worcester that pretty much rocked the New England baseball world.
One can imagine that people in Pawtucket Rhode Island are not exactly happy with losing out on the deal, which Ballou wrote was the product of three years of negotiations. There are still approvals needed from the league, but the construction slated to start in 2019 is pretty much a forgone conclusion. Prominent Worcester citizenry- as well as city and state officials- gathered in their city hall on Friday for the announcement by Worcester Mayor Joseph M. Petty, that brought cheers from the audience. The mayor did not fail to mention Worcester’s baseball history. Worcester had an early National League team, called the Worcesters (later referred to as the Ruby Legs) that played from 1880 to 1882, and the city has bragging rights of the first perfect game in professional ball thrown On June 12, 1880 by J. Lee Richmond, on the Worcester Fair Grounds, which is now the home of Becker College.
The mayor of Pawtucket, Don Grebien, smarting from losing the team after forty years of being in Rhode Island, went on record with Worcester Magazine saying that Pawtucket made the Paw Sox and not the other way around. Adding more sour grapes he said: “The Worcester process is unlike the highly vetted and transparent Rhode Island process that protected [the] taxpayer. Though many details remain behind closed doors, where they were negotiated, we will take the weekend to digest the limited information that was released this afternoon and I will hold a press conference early next week to provide further comments and thoughts.”
The state of Massachusetts has publicly committed to over 35 million in the next few years, and governor Charlie Baker released a statement in the city press release saying: “The Baker- Polito Administration is committed to working with our partners at the local level to support economic development opportunities across the Commonwealth to create jobs and strengthen communities. We are pleased to continue to invest in the City of Worcester and look forward to working together to welcome a premier professional ball team to the state.” This is yet another feather in the cap of Governor Baker who has just begun campaigning for re-election.
All the controversy aside, for Red Sox fans in Boston this is a great story, as bringing the Red Sox nation fully into Massachusetts so they can take a short train ride to Worcester will make the new venue popular among the locals. This would be especially true for the college students who attend the ten colleges located in Worcester who might not have the funds to attend the pricy Red Sox games. While plans for the 10,000-seat stadium are not completed, we obtained a preliminary rendering from Worcester City Hall. The Red Sox nation is reassured that the new stadium will include a replica of the Green Monster. With Polar Seltzer being a major sponsor, look to the brush up of the mascot Paw Sox Polar Bear, the naming of the team being WoW or Woo Sox, and a hand full of other promotional changes. There is little news on what the naming rights will cost Polar Beverages, but it looks like a win, win situation for Worcester. Keying into the city development of Kelly Square, this ball park represents a shot in the arm for the second largest city in Massachusetts, and signals to those who no longer can afford the pricy climes of Boston, to perhaps go west in search of affordable housing that will accompany the project.
No joy in Mudville has a new meaning for the citizens of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, they seemed to lack the promotional energy that Worcester presented. According to Bill Ballou the Worcester plan got a clever campaign boost by Gene Zabrinski, president of the Canal District Alliance, a retired carpenter, and Worcester native who along with others generated a persuasive “blue collar” campaign that attracted Lucchino to negotiations. Worcester Telegram writer George Barnes said orders for Woo Sox hats and t-shirts are already off the charts at the local Guertin Graphics shop. Go Woo Sox!