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City Puts Together Pitch to Woo Minor League Team

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Copyright 2017 Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Inc.
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Telegram & Gazette (Massachusetts)

 

WORCESTER — According to Gov. Charlie Baker, the city has "put together a pretty compelling package" in its bid to have the Pawtucket Red Sox here, but the details of that package have yet to be divulged.

Nor has the package necessarily been delivered yet.

"We don't have a specific proposal in front of us," a PawSox source said this week, requesting anonymity as the Rhode Island Legislature continues to deal with a stadium proposal there. "We continue to have productive discussions with Worcester and what we're hearing from them continues to be encouraging."

In a statement released Thursday night, City Manager Edward A. Augustus Jr. said, "We continue to have regular conversations with the PawSox and our partners in state government. We look forward to continuing those conversations and seeing where they lead."

Mr. Baker, speaking at the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce annual meeting last week, said that the state would be willing to work with any site in Massachusetts deemed appropriate for the Triple A team. Sources say it was significant that he chose Worcester to deliver that message.

"Our message to Worcester and to the PawSox is that as they develop that proposal, we're interested in participating," Mr. Baker said last week.

Worcester sources have indicated that the city could have a detailed proposal finished by the end of this month or mid-January. In that case,

the PawSox could have an alternative in front of them before the Rhode Island Legislature can act on that state's plan.

The $83 million Rhode Island proposal, which would have a replacement ballpark for McCoy Stadium built in downtown Pawtucket, has made halting progress through the Legislature since it was unveiled last May. The Pawtucket plan is a three-way combination of private, state and city money for what would be a publicly owned ballpark. The Worcester plan is thought to be similar in nature, with Baker's announcement that the commonwealth would lend its support a catalyst for finalizing the details.

Exactly what level of support the state would provide is unknown.

The Providence Journal reported that the Rhode Island Senate Finance Committee unveiled rewritten ballpark legislation Thursday that would split the revenue from ballpark naming rights between the team and the city of Pawtucket, a change from the original package that would have given the PawSox all the money from the naming rights. The revision also has the Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency issuing $85 million in bonds rather than the $71 million initially called for.

The PawSox, in a statement, said, "We, like the rest of the public, have now received this information, and we will take the time necessary to consider it."

Earlier in the week, the Rhode Island state auditor's office said that while the team has stable finances, attendance would have to improve to help pay for a new ballpark. The team has said it wants to build a new stadium to increase what has been eroding attendance at McCoy Stadium.

The Senate Finance Committee did not vote on on the legislation Thursday but expects to next month when the Legislature convenes for its next session. If the legislation is approved by the committee, it goes to the full Senate for a vote.

As Worcester closes in on a formal proposal and a vote in the Rhode Island Senate upcoming, the stadium saga seems to headed for a conclusion. In the Providence Journal report, Finance Committee chairman William J. Conley Jr. was asked about Worcester's role in the process and said, "We need to move quickly even without Worcester. Worcester's not the driving force here."

Worcester sources say that the city's presentation to attract the team has been a compelling one and many in the PawSox organization are leaning toward a move north but Pawtucket Red Sox chairman Larry Lucchino, who a source said was in the city on Wednesday, is reluctant to relocate out of loyalty to the long partnership between Pawtucket and the team.

Contact Bill Ballou at william.ballou@telegram.com Follow him on Twitter @BillBallouTG.

A rendering of the proposed PawSox stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. [T&G File Image]

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