Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

April 13, 2020

If Polar Park shutdown lasts until June, WooSox likely won't start on time

Photo | Grant Welker Crews were at the Polar Park construction site April 2, securing it in advance of an April 3 shutdown, according to city officials.

In an interview on WBJ's podcast, Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus said if the forced shutdown of construction on the $132-million Polar Park project lasts until June, the baseball stadium likely won't be complete in time for the minor league Pawtucket Red Sox to move in by opening day in April 2021.

Edward Augustus, Worcester city manager

As part of the effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus, onsite construction at the Canal District stadium site was shut down on April 3. Like non-essential businesses in Massachusetts, the Polar Park work cannot resume until at least May 4, although date may be pushed back depending on the risk the disease still poses on the state and world. Gov. Charlie Baker already has extended the non-essential business shutdown once.

Augustus joined the WBJ podcast, The Weekly Business Report, to discuss the project's timeline and overall cost. Listen here to the entire interview on the podcast episode, Coronavirus' impact on the WooSox stadium. The Weekly Business Report is a joint effort between WBJ and Radio Worcester.

With workers unable to resume physical work on the project, August said the project team -- which includes the joint construction management team from Providence-based Gilbane Building Co. and Los Angeles-based AECOM Hunt -- is doing a lot of behind-the-scenes work like finalizing bid packages for subcontract work and compiling invoices.

If the shutdown lasts five or six weeks, then the construction crews should be able to make the time difference for the stadium to open in April 2021.

"There are still a lot of unknowns," Augustus said on the WBJ podcast. "If we are shut down until June, then it is probably not possible to make it up."

To make up for lost time, the project team could decide to speed up the schedule by having crews work 12 hours per day and/or six days per week, he said.

Those measures, though, would add to the cost of a project already grown from $101 million to $132 million this year, which would make it the second-most expensive minor league baseball stadium ever built, after (adjusted for inflation) the $150-million Las Vegas Aviators stadium, which opened in 2019.

"All that will be a cost-benefit analysis once we understand how much time we have to make up," Augustus said.

Under the agreement with the PawSox, the team is responsible for any overruns to the construction costs. However, Augustus said because the global coronavirus pandemic was so unexpected, the city would work with the team about how any extra costs get paid for. An option, he said, includes refinancing the debt obligations on the project, since interest rates have gone down since the coronavirus pandemic started.

In deciding what extra costs the city is willing to take on, Augustus said the project's expense has always been weighed against the city's ability to pay for the debt service with revenues generated from the site, including taxes from the surrounding $125-million hotel-and-retail development, parking fees, and city-run events at the stadium.

"That is still the North Star for us," Augustus said. "We wouldn't want to do anything contrary to the notion that this project pays for itself."

Prior to the shutdown, WBJ had independent economists twice review the city's pay-for-itself financing plans, and they found it was unlikely this would be the case.

In the podcast interview, Augustus discussed alternative options for the team if the construction project misses its deadline, more detail about the impact on the project cost, and how the surrounding $125-million hotel-and-retail development from Boston developer Denis Dowdle would be affected by the coronavirus shutdown. The podcast is available here.

Sign up for Enews

WBJ Web Partners

Related Content


Order a PDF