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Updated: March 18, 2024 From the Editor

From the Editor: Polar Park, following the numbers

In the wake of the Aug. 17, 2018, announcement by the Pawtucket Red Sox of their plans to move to a new stadium in Worcester’s Canal District, WBJ published a story where we surveyed 10 economists on the City of Worcester’s claim of the public ballpark project paying for itself through increased tax collections.

WBJ editor Brad Kane at his desk
WBJ Editor Brad Kane

Nine of those 10 economists said the Worcester stadium wouldn’t end up paying for itself. When WBJ published this story just as the city was catching Red Sox fever, it immediately led to claims of WBJ being anti-WooSox or anti-Worcester. These claims were revived again any time WBJ would report on Polar Park, including how the rushed nature and difficult landscape of the project led to cost overruns, which caused the $160-million stadium to be the most expensive minor league stadium ever built; or how a delay in the signing of the stadium lease agreement gave the WooSox significant negotiating leverage over the city government.

We weren’t being anti-Worcester. We were just following the research.

If we are researching local employment figures and find jobs increased 20% in March, we would write a story saying “Jobs rose 20% in March.” Similarly, if that research showed jobs decreased 20% in March, we would write a story saying “Jobs dropped 20% in March.” We don’t choose to write one story and not the other. Doing anything differently wouldn’t be journalism. It would be dishonest, and ultimately WBJ’s main product is integrity.

For the edition of March 18, Staff Writer Eric Casey in his “The rising value of the Canal District” story has new research about the stadium: Since it opened in 2021, the values of the surrounding properties in the Canal District rose 83%, compared to 41% citywide. Furthermore, property sales in the Canal District rose 72% since the WooSox’s 2018 announcement. Clearly, the stadium project has attracted a lot of money into the neighborhood, which was one of the economic goals of the project, even if it doesn’t end up paying for itself. Casey’s story makes up the first part of WBJ’s Canal District Transformation two-story package publishing over this edition and the next.

This story certainly doesn’t tell the entire tale of Polar Park’s impact on Worcester – no single story ever could – and there’s certainly a debate over whether the influx of all this money into the Canal District is beneficial to its businesses and residents. WBJ will explore that issue in part two of Canal District Transformation in the edition of April 1. For that story, just like all our others, we will follow the research.

– Brad Kane, editor

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March 19, 2024

The city and the chamber has "projections and assumptions", try not to 'hurt their feelings with any hard data.

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