The city of Worcester and the Pawtucket Red Sox announced Friday they have a letter of intent to build a new ballpark and a multi-million dollar redevelopment project in the city's Canal District and the team will commence playing there in 2021.
"Our city has baseball in its blood, so get ready, today, I am excited and pleased to announce that the Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox will be coming to the city of Worcester," Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty told the cheering crowd.
PawSox Chairman Larry Lucchino said the new ballpark will be called Polar Park.
"We have felt an enormous sense of welcome and an enormous sense of civic pride and we have felt this is a place where the people of Worcester and the people of Massachusetts will open us with open arms," Lucchino said.
The new ballpark will be the centerpiece of approximately 18 acres of development that will include 250 apartments and a 150-room hotel, as well as new restaurants and shops.
Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito was in attendance and says the baseball team's move to Worcester signifies economic momentum for the city, including more jobs and redevelopment of the industrial district. She added that the state will invest in the project, as well.
"We will commit $35 million to the infrastructure over the next two to three years to redevelop this area of the city," she said.
Massachusets Governor Charlie Baker added his support for the move in a statement.
“The Baker-Polito Administration is committed to working with our partners at the local level to support economic development opportunities across the Commonwealth to create jobs and strengthen communities,” said Baker. “We are pleased to continue to invest in the City of Worcester and look forward to working together to welcome a premier professional ball team to the state.”
A statement from the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce read in part:
"This is a significant milestone, in that the proposal will not only involve the construction of a new ballpark but a major redevelopment of the long-vacant Wyman-Gordon site into a mixed-use district. Together the ballpark and redevelopment will create new jobs, tax base expansion and tens of thousands of new visitors to the City annually."
Multiple sources confirmed Thursday that the minor league baseball team would soon be referring to Worcester as its new home.
Boston Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner all but confirmed the move while speaking with the media on Friday. He said he's disappointed that PawSox Chairman Larry Lucchino couldn't find a way to keep the team in Rhode Island but also excited about the future in Worcester.
"Obviously, for every child who is disappointed today, there's also going to be a child in Worcester who's going to have a nice night tonight," Werner said. "It's very important we keep our fan base in Rhode Island, but this is a great fan base in Massachusetts, a great thing for the city of Worcester, a great thing for the state.
"I think there's gonna be renewed energy in Worcester," he added. "I think they're going to have a great new ballpark there. We're happy that the team is staying in New England."
"We think we have a fair deal that will be a win-win-win deal for the city, commonwealth, and for the to-be-named baseball team," Lucchino said.
Residents said they're excited at the possibility of the team relocating to the city, and one even said Lucchino has been spotted in the town numerous times.
"It's a very good thing," Worcester resident Joe Bailey said. "It’s an awesome thing. It’s bringing everything back to Massachusetts where it belongs."
City officials are already on board with the PawSox going to Worcester.
Alex Guardiola, director of government affairs and public policy at the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the team would bring in revenue and jobs and benefit local businesses.
In the midst of all of the excitement and brainstorming, the Pawtucket mayor's office made it clear that no announcements have been made just yet.
"At no time has there been any indication of a PawSox plan to move to Worcester or a suggestion of an announcement," a statement from the mayor's office said on Thursday.
The team is contracted to play in Pawtucket through 2020.