September 24, 2018

Baker says WooSox development a big opportunity for state

Photo | Grant Welker
Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday addressed the $240 million Canal District project that includes the new home of the Pawtucket Red Sox after an event at Quinsigamond Community College.

Gov. Charlie Baker gave his first public comments on the soon-to-be Worcester Red Sox, saying Monday his administration looks to invest state funds in infrastructure projects that can be leveraged by private development, such as the new minor league ballpark slated for the Canal District.

"The combination of the stadium along with all that housing, which is right near Union Station, which makes the whole thing a transit-oriented development opportunity, that's a big opportunity for the commonwealth, and obviously a big opportunity for Worcester," Baker told Worcester Business Journal, following an unrelated announcement he made at Quinsigamond Community College about increasing state funding for aid to part-time students.

"Most of the stuff we try to do as an administration generally working with cities and towns is usually around infrastructure that supports development, and in this particular case, there's a very large development, several hundred million dollars, that's going to be brought on by the arrival of the PawSox on the Worcester site," he said.

Baker said the roughly $240-million ballpark and related mixed-use development eyed for Worcester's Canal District will be among the big wins the state looks for when weighing infrastructure investment. The Baker Administration has committed at least $35 million to the project through its MassWorks infrastructure program. Those funds include a new parking garage across Madison Street from the ballpark. Additional, unspecified funds have also been committed to remaking Kelley Square, which sits a few blocks from the ballpark site.

Image/Courtesy
A rendering of a new stadium for the soon-to-be Worcester Red Sox and a related mixed-use development. The total $240 million project is expected to open starting in 2021.

"If you look at the $275 million worth of MassWorks grants we've done in the last four years, probably in 110 or 115 communities, almost all of them involve places and spaces where $5 million from the commonwealth or $10 million or $15 million in infrastructure translates into hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment that's unlocked by those MassWorks funds," Baker said.

"For us, doing this in Gateway Communities and doing it in areas of cities that simply haven't seen a whole heck of a lot of momentum or opportunities in a long time, those are big wins," he said. "And in this particular case, that site, that old Wyman-Gordon site has been sitting vacant for a long time."

The Pawtucket Red Sox and the Worcester city administration reached a letter of intent in August, and the City Council voted to approve the ballpark deal this month. If all goes to plan, the team will begin playing in Worcester in 2021. Worcester plans to borrow $101 million in a bond for the ballpark next month. The team will pay $6 million upfront and pay roughly $1 million a year in a 30-year lease.

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