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Worcester Going After PawSox, But Rhode Island Not Giving Up

Worcester, Massachusetts, is sharpening its bid to lure the Pawtucket Red Sox to Central Massachusetts. The PawSox are the Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.

The Telegram and Gazette newspaper reports nearly 20 other locations have also pitched redevelopment proposals to the team.

But there are some Rhode Islanders who want to keep them in the Ocean State. Ian Donnis, who's been covering all of this for Rhode Island Public Radio, told me why the PawSox are considering a move.

Ian Donnis, RIPR: Well, the PawSox home at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, is considered antiquated. That's been in use since the mid-20th century.  It was updated in the 1990s, but right now, the PawSox say the cost of bringing it up to standard would be about $40 million, which would be a big chunk of creating a new, more desirable ballpark. 

Carrie Healy, NEPR: So that's kind of the back story. And since you are a political reporter, what are the latest political developments in this saga? Can you catch us up with what's coming out of Rhode Island?

Sure. The PawSox came back earlier this year with a proposal to move less than a mile away from their current site in Pawtucket to a site near downtown Pawtucket. The PawSox say their $84 million stadium, if it goes ahead, would catalyze economic development.

But the public in Rhode Island has been very skeptical about the idea. Many people remember the failure of 38 Studios, owned by former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling. He had a video game company that got some state money, and it went bankrupt.

Rhode Island taxpayers were left holding the bag, so to speak, and has made people skeptical about using public dollars for private industry.

And it's really difficult to tell right now whether or not this proposal is going to go ahead. There's more support for it in the Rhode Island Senate than in the Rhode Island House.

McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island in 2016.
Credit Waz8 / Creative Commons
Creative Commons
McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island in 2016.

Meanwhile, Worcester, Massachusetts, has hired two top consultants to assist in luring the team to "The Woo.” That would move them what about 40 miles north and west of where they are now. Is Pawtucket feeling legitimately threatened by Worcester?

It depends who you ask. The people who love the PawSox, and most want the PawSox to stay in Rhode Island, feel like the longer this plays out, the greater the risk that the PawSox could wind up going somewhere else.

People in Rhode Island are mindful of Worcester. But Montreal is also seen as a strong potential rival for the PawSox. Montreal still has a former Major League Baseball Park that could kind of be retrofitted, at least in the short-term, to host a minor league team. And there's a real strong passion for baseball in Montreal.

But people who are more skeptical really question whether there's any other community — Worcester, Montreal or any other — that would offer tens of millions of dollars in public borrowing to help attract the team, as is being considered in Rhode Island.

So what are the actual dates that these decisions have to be made by?

Well, the PawSox say they have just a couple of seasons left at McCoy Stadium, their current home. They want to resolve this issue as soon as possible.

But because of the Rhode Island experience of having been burned with 38 Studios, that has kind of slowed down the process.

PawSox players in the dugout in 2014.
Credit Eric Kilby flickr.com/photos/ekilby / Creative Commons
Creative Commons
PawSox players in the dugout in 2014.

It seems like the PawSox really do want to stay in Rhode Island, although one of their top executives, Larry Lucchino, has certainly expressed his frustration about dealing with Rhode Island's political scene.

It's possible we may see some resolution in the new legislative session next year, but it's really difficult to predict how this is going to play out right now.

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