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Updated: January 24, 2022 From the Editor

From the editor: Why we give extra scrutiny to Polar Park

For our commercial real estate focus in the Jan. 24 print edition, WBJ’s editorial staff brings you stories about developments in Southbridge, Dudley, and Worcester. You will notice a significant shift in tone with Staff Writer Katherine Hamilton’s story about the Worcester developments. 

WBJ editor Brad Kane at his desk
WBJ Editor Brad Kane

While the articles about developments in Southbridge and Dudley focus more on project leaders’ high ambitions to preserve historic landmarks while hopefully sparking a revitalization of rundown neighborhoods, Hamilton takes a far more critical look at the developments surrounding Polar Park, which are key to paying off the $160-million public facility used to lure the Pawtucket Red Sox to the Canal District. Part of the reason for this tonal shift is circumstantial, as the Southbridge and Dudley projects are growing and Worcester's are shrinking.

Moreover, Hamilton’s tone is more reflective of the critical eye WBJ has had toward the Polar Park project basically since the beginning, when in 2018 the city, WooSox, and one developer announced the plan to move the team from Rhode Island. This extra scrutiny stems from one of my main philosophies, shared by the WBJ editorial staff: If a government is going to give $160 million toward enticing one single business, particularly a small company with less than 50 full-time employees operating seasonally, there needs to be transparency and accountability for that deal, to ensure it fulfills its promises to the public.

It has long bothered me that no other local media outlets share this philosophy about Polar Park’s public spending, as the Telegram & Gazette, MassLive, and Spectrum News 1 all seem willing to uncritically parrot the lines from city and team officials about how great the ballpark is. Because WBJ often stands alone in holding the project to account, this has created a perception among the stadium defenders that we are somehow anti-WooSox or anti-Worcester, which isn’t the case. There’s no doubt the stadium and the WooSox have had some positives for the community; just look at how enthusiastic WBJ readers in the Flash Poll on page 11 are about the upcoming season. Yet, our first and highest priorities in the WBJ newsroom are to truth and accountability, and if a project where a government gave $160 million toward a private business isn’t going so well, we are going to report on that.

- Brad Kane, editor

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January 25, 2022

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