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January 13, 2020

WooSox: Despite bumps & bruises, team coming in April 2021

Image | Courtesy | Pawtucket Red Sox A rendering of Worcester's Polar Park

Despite costs rising to $132 million to build the team's new home in the Canal District, the Worcester Red Sox president promised opening day for the Triple A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox remains unchanged.

“The preliminary financial plan was done before the park’s design was completed, now our top construction experts know the real costs,” Charles Steinberg, president of the Worcester Red Sox, told WBJ on Saturday. “We have a clear financial picture, one that reflects the actual design of the park. We will open on time in April 2021.”

In a filing with the Worcester City Council on Friday, City Manager Edward Augustus wrote the costs associated with stadium project have increased by about $30 million, including the total estimate for the stadium's construction rising to $99.4 million from a the original estimate of $86 million to $90 million.

Steinberg did say these might be the only surprises on the comprehensive project, but the team's commitment to move from Pawtucket to Worcester remains the same.

“There are bound to be bumps and bruises along the way in a project this complex,” Steinberg said. “But that’s where we draw on the experience of (WooSox Chairman) Larry Lucchino and architect Janet Marie Smith to just keep going.”

Photo | SHNS
Worcester Red Sox President Charles Steinberg

Steinberg said the original estimate of $86 million to $90 million to build the 10,000-seat park has risen to $99.4 million due to a rise in construction costs.

“The good news is the ball club will cover the difference,” he said. “It will help us make sure the features we’re designing for the park will make it distinctly and uniquely Worcester.”

To cover the extra costs, the facility fee on tickets for events at the city-owned stadium will rise from 50 cents to $1 for baseball games and from $1.00 to $1.25 for non-baseball events. The first $200,000 of those facility fee collections will go toward stadium upkeep, while the rest will go to the WooSox to pay down the increased costs in the stadium construction.

According to the original agreement with the city, the team is responsible for all construction cost overruns and had already commited $36 million in upfront and annual lease payments, based on the original estimate for the stadium construction.

The other rising costs on the project fall on the city and largely because of the cost acquiring the necessary properties and relocating the businesses, including data switching center Windstream. Augustus said these costs now total $20.7 million.

The team is not responsible for any portion of these costs, but Steinberg said these types of tough negotiations are typical in complex projects like the Canal District stadium.

"I do know from working on Baltimore’s Camden Yards and San Diego’s Petco Park, when you do acquisition and relocations, you make estimates, but every company has their own story,” Steinberg said.

The City Council on Tuesday is being asked to approve a $32-million loan for additional ballpark financing. The council is expected to refer the request to one of its committees for a public hearing.

“It's another great step in terms of the partnership between the city and WooSox,” he said. “It’s flourishing.”

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