September 3, 2018
Viewpoint

Another perfect game

Timothy P. Murray

Last year, the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce came out in full support of Mayor Joseph Petty, City Manager Edward Augustus, and a majority of the City Council in their efforts to explore the feasibility of bringing the Red Sox Triple-A affiliate to Worcester.

These efforts were not simply about bringing a major league baseball affiliate and new ballpark to Worcester, but about whether a new ballpark could serve as a catalyst for the reuse of the 22-acre Wyman Gordon site, which has been substantially vacant for decades. In fact, the Wyman-Gordon property was included in the Worcester Redevelopment Authority's Urban Revitalization Plan, which was adopted by the City Council last year. This plan recognized its blighted condition, making it eligible for eminent domain. The Urban Revitalization Plan was to redevelop this property in a manner that would create jobs and expand the tax base.

The public announcement of a Letter of Intent executed by Augustus, Larry Lucchino of the Red Sox Triple-A affiliate, and developer Denis Dowdle on Aug. 17 to build a new ballpark, two hotels, 250 units of market rate housing, retail space, and a garage on this property was welcome news towards reaching the Urban Revitalization Plan goal. Additionally, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito's commitment of $35 million in state assistance to address needed infrastructure improvements within this $240-million project was important.

This Letter of Intent, based on conservative revenue estimates, will net the city an additional $7 million per year in additional tax revenue. This project does not include revenues the city will derive from ancillary development surrounding the proposed Polar Park. The chamber is confident additional development will occur, as we have received eight inquiries from developers we have been engaged with over the years. These developers are seeking to learn about investment opportunities around Polar Park and Mr. Dowdle's proposed development at the Wyman Gordon site. Moreover, we have seen new ballparks have successfully triggered this ancillary development in cities like Durham, N.C.; Indianapolis; Nashville; and Oklahoma City. This additional development will lead to new investments in the Canal District, Vernon Hill, Green Island, Main South and the lower Chandler Street neighborhoods.

During his tenure as city manager, Augustus has demonstrated strong fiscal stewardship as evidenced by the city's bond rating being elevated to AA status. Additionally, his project management skills have manifested themselves with the successful completion of Nelson Place School and the construction of a new South High School now underway. Strong leadership from City Hall, working in collaboration with all relevant stakeholders, has been a key to Worcester's success in taking on ambitious economic developments.

The chamber has great confidence – with City Manager Augustus' leadership and a constructive and collaborative approach by all parties – this important economic development project will return positive economic dividends for generations to come along with some great professional Red Sox baseball here in Worcester, Massachusetts – the home of baseball's first perfect game.

Timothy P. Murray is president and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce.

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