The Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce fully supports the recent efforts of Mayor Joe Petty, City Manager Augustus, and a majority of the City Council to explore the feasibility of bringing the Pawtucket Red Sox to Worcester for a variety of reasons.
First, as City Manager Augustus and Mayor Petty have both stated, these efforts are not simply about bringing professional baseball and a ballpark to Worcester. More importantly, this conversation will serve as a catalyst about the reuse of a substantial portion of the 22 plus acre Wyman Gordan site that has laid dormant for nearly three decades producing little in taxes or jobs.
Wisely, this area was included in the Worcester Redevelopment Authority’s Urban Revitalization Plan, which was adopted by the Worcester City Council, and allows for the use of eminent domain to acquire these long standing vacant properties. The Chamber strongly supported the creation of the Urban Revitalization Plan as well.
This conversation with the PawSox is beneficial because it explores how a baseball park can be a driver for new private sector investment on the underutilized parcels of property around a new ballpark on most of the Wyman Gordon site and other underutilized properties in the area. In doing so, we can build on the momentum that has been growing in the Canal District over the past dozen years. Most recently this momentum has manifested itself with the newly completed $18 million Fidelity Bank Worcester Ice Center, which features two new hockey rinks, and 40,000 square feet of retail space, and new businesses openings like Lock 50, Queens Cup Bakery, and Kummerspeck Restaurant and butcher shop, just to name a few.
Secondly, this conversation and process is also about developing a plan that will knit together the Canal District, Vernon Hill, Green Island, Main South, and lower Chandler and Madison Street neighborhoods in a positive and strategic way. This would add density; include mixed use commercial, retail, and industrial uses that create jobs for the residents of these abutting neighborhoods, and expand the City’s tax base. A similar planning process was utilized by the City in the early stages of the now substantially completed City Square project in downtown Worcester.
The Red Sox brand is known internationally, and having a Triple AAA baseball team in Worcester would undoubtedly have many benefits. These benefits include 70 home baseball games, a ballpark that could be used for concerts and other sporting events year round. Tens of thousands of new visitors from across New England, and the country, would come to Worcester to watch baseball and the Red Sox’s future stars. These fans would be visiting many of our local businesses during the spring and summer months. Additionally, the Pawtucket Red Sox Managing Partner, Larry Lucchino, and his team, led by the nationally recognized architect, Janet Marie Smith, have a proven track record of building or rehabilitating baseball parks, like Fenway Park. They have done so in a manner that compliments the urban landscape of the surrounding neighborhoods and have attracted significant, new private sector investment in the immediate area around the ballpark. Camden Yards in Baltimore and Fenway Park are two tangible examples of their work. Additionally, new Triple AAA baseball ballparks, designed appropriately, have helped facilitate private sector investment in cities like Durham, North Carolina, Indianapolis, Indiana, Nashville, Tennessee, and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
The other positive is that the success of this conversation and process does not hinge solely on whether the PawSox choose to relocate to Worcester. As we witnessed with the City Square project, Gateway Park, and the South Worcester Industrial Park, as pad ready development sites are created, local and outside investors and companies come forward overtime to build on these sites. If the PawSox stay in Rhode Island, a smaller multi-use ballpark could be utilized for the Bravehearts, local colleges, high schools, youth groups, and concerts as well. Additionally, a plan for a mixed use development on the current vacant and underutilized properties in the urban revitalization area property could go forward as well to the benefit of the surrounding neighborhoods.
The Chamber will continue to actively participate in this process, knowing that no matter the outcome with the PawSox, Worcester’s future is bright, and we are confident that a plan that makes our neighborhoods and city stronger will be the result.