WORCESTER, Mass. - Could the smell of hot dogs and popcorn, and the sound of “batter up” soon by experienced in a new Worcester baseball stadium?
A group of residents hopes so as they try to get the Pawtucket Red Sox to move north.
An abandoned lot just outside of Kelly Square has become a field of dreams for Gene Zabinski, president of the Canal District Alliance.
“I am a baseball fan. This field over here, it’s been here for over 20 years like this, ever since Wyman Gordon was torn down, and it’s an eyesore in our neighborhood," Zabinski said.
It’s a swath of neglected land in the middle of New England’s second largest city that Zabinksi thinks would make a perfect home for the PawSox.
“We have an empty lot. They need a place to play. Let’s put it together," Zabinski said.
The PawSox currently play in McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Team chairman Larry Lucchino told WPRI in May that the need for a new facility was real.
“This ballpark is necessary. It is fundamentally necessary. Our current ballpark is 75 years old. The business is barely sustainable," Lucchino said.
A deal to replace McCoy in Rhode Island fell apart, and that’s why Worcester residents now see an opening.
Zabinski helped collect 10,000 signed postcards from people around Kelly Square.
He personally delivered them to PawSox management as he made his case for why this move would make sense. “We’ve got close to a million people within 20-30 miles of the city of Worcester and we think that population would support a ball team at the level of Triple AAA.”
An analysis of the postcards found that about half of the supporters were from outside Worcester and included 11 other states.
Local business owners, like Paul Harrington, of Fairway Auto Glass, think the stadium would give the whole area a boost.
“I think it would make it better, I do,” Harrington said as he looked out at the messy lot which is across the street from his building. “I think there would be some nice stores. I think there is room for expansion all over the place.”
Despite some minimal concerns for traffic, residents we spoke with shared that excitement.
“It would look a lot better,” said one young man.
Another added, “I think it’s a good idea and will bring a lot of revenue here.”
Building a stadium like this would require the city and state to get involved with a finance package, at time when using public money for professional sports can often be a tough sell.
We checked with the team, the city, and the state and all say they are open to talking, but are not ready to make any commitment at this time.
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