PawSox officially sign letter of intent to build new stadium in Worcester

Scott McLaughlin
August 17, 2018 - 3:01 pm

The Pawtucket Red Sox officially have a plan in place to move the Red Sox' Triple-A affiliate to Worcester.

At a ceremony Friday afternoon, PawSox chairman Larry Lucchino signed a letter of intent to build a new stadium in downtown Worcester, scheduled to open in 2021. The project is subject to the approval of the Worcester City Council, the International League and Minor League Baseball.

"We are eager to build an innovative, family-friendly ballpark that reflects the love and appreciation of baseball and that unifies Central Massachusetts and the Blackstone Valley Corridor," Lucchino said.

Lucchino and the PawSox had trouble reaching a deal to keep the team in or around Pawtucket. A plan to build a new stadium in Providence fell through, and plans to use public funds to help finance a new stadium were met with strong opposition by Rhode Island residents, with one poll showing that 59 percent of respondents opposed the idea while only 33 percent supported it.

The city of Pawtucket and state of Rhode Island likely would've had to pay about $40 million, something many residents were likely more skeptical of  doing given the disaster of Curt Schilling's video game company, 38 Studios, earlier this decade and what that cost the state.

As negotiations between Rhode Island and the team hit roadblock after roadblock, Worcester increased its efforts to "Woo the Sox." Nearly a year ago, the City Council overwhelmingly approved a plan in principle to try to win over the PawSox, and negotiations have been taking place since.

In July, Minor League Baseball applied for trademarks on the word "WooSox," which will apparently be the new nickname once the team moves. Last week Lucchino was spotted touring the city's Canal District, where the new stadium is expected to be built on a parcel of land off Madison Street.

Pawtucket mayor Don Grebien came up with a last-ditch effort in recent weeks that outlined a plan for an $83 million stadium in Pawtucket, with the team paying $45 million, the state $23 million and the city $15 million. To combat continued resistance to using public funds, Grebien insisted the plan would pay for itself over time.

It apparently wasn't enough for Lucchino and company. Reports first surfaced Thursday afternoon that the PawSox were set to announce their departure for Worcester, and that was followed Friday afternoon by Lucchino signing the letter of intent.

Lucchino will work on the new stadium with Janet Marie Smith, with whom he partnered to create Baltimore's Camden Yards and renovate Fenway Park. Lucchino also led efforts to build San Diego's Petco Park and Fort Myers' JetBlue Park.

"We look forward to designing and building an innovative downtown ballpark with year-round uses that further enlivens the city, enhances its civic self-esteem, and adds to its beauty," Lucchino said. "We are eager to create a wonderful point of pride for children and students and families throughout Central Massachusetts."

Red Sox chairman Tom Werner seemed to distance the team from the move, saying the project was driven by Lucchino and that the Red Sox were just "bystanders."

"This is something that’s been really driven by Larry Lucchino, the CEO of the PawSox," Werner told reporters Friday. "I know that they’ve tried extremely hard to try to keep the team in Rhode Island. We’re kind of bystanders in it. We love the PawSox in Rhode Island, but I understand that Larry felt that this was a good thing for his franchise, the Triple-A franchise, to move it to Worcester. I know they tried extremely hard to keep them in Rhode Island. I’m disappointed that they couldn’t make a deal, but as I said, we’re really just bystanders in this discussion."