September 17, 2018
CENTRAL MASS IN BRIEF

Worcester approves $101M ballpark financing

A rendering of the proposed Polar Park in Worcester's Canal District, slated to be the new home of the Pawtucket Red Sox in 2021.

Worcester City Councilors approved the borrowing of nearly $101 million to pay for the design, construction and land acquisition costs for the new home of the Pawtucket Red Sox and a host of other ordinances intended to expedite the project, which must be completed in time for the 2021 baseball season.

Madison Downtown Holdings, the Boston-based developer proposing to build hotels, retail and apartments on the abutting Wyman-Gordon parcel,was also approved for tax-increment financing deals and the waiver of the first $2 million in permitting fees for the project.

The vote came after the council's Standing Committee of Economic Development held two public hearings on the project. The committee voted at its second meeting on Sept. 5 to recommend approval of the package to the full council.

"This is really about a proud moment for our city, a historic moment for our city," City Councilor Candy Mero-Carlson said, before giving the council a pat on the back for pushing for the ballpark plan in the first place last year. "We should really take a bow here."

Input from those meetings included requests for a community benefits agreement to ensure the character of the neighborhood is maintained and that local workers and vendors are given first priority.

Now, the project must move quickly. Included in an agreement signed with the team, an owner's project manager must be chosen by Oct. 10 this year. Permitting, land acquisitions and other necessary steps must be done in time for construction to begin by July 1 next year.

The city plans to acquire the proposed ballpark parcel on mostly vacant land in the Canal District.

A lease agreement between the city and Triple-A minor league baseball team must be negotiated by Dec. 1.

Also approved was the creation of a new position for a special project coordinator to work out of City Hall. The new position will oversee the project.

City Manager Edward Augustus and the team signed two separate letters of intent with the team and Madison on Aug. 17 after a year of negotiations to set the project in motion. In total, the public-private project is estimated to cost about $240 million.

Of the $101 million being borrowed by the city, the team will pick up $36 million in a combination of up-front cash and rent over a 30-year lease.

The ballpark itself is estimated to cost between $86 million and $90 million.

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