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Money Talks: How The PawSox Were Wooed To Worcester

The Pawtucket Red Sox currently play in McCoy Stadium.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s team showed it was ready to play ball with incentives if it meant luring a Rhode Island Minor League Baseball team across state lines. 

The Pawtucket Red Sox announced Friday they intended to move from Rhode Island to a new stadium to be built in Worcester in time for the 2021 season, but Massachusetts offered more than a new venue for home runs. Baker’s administration offered the team $32.5M under its MassWorks Infrastructure Program that could go partially to a new parking garage for the field. 

The package is the second-largest MassWorks deal the state has offered after a $125M one it gave to General Electric for its headquarters deal in Boston’s Fort Point neighborhood, the Boston Globe reports. While the team doesn’t have a high employee count, it is expected to bring thousands of visitors to Worcester. Planned surrounding development is also expected to be a catalyst for revitalizing the downtown in New England’s second-largest city.  

Developer Madison Downtown Holdings received $2.5M in state tax credits for a planned 250-unit apartment building it is planning for within an 18-acre special tax district created in Worcester to partially fund the new stadium. Madison is also receiving $3.7M in city property tax breaks for two hotels it plans in the district. 

The bulk of the stadium's upfront construction cost comes from Worcester. The city plans to issue $70M in tax-exempt bonds and $30M in taxable bonds to go toward building the city-owned stadium, team consultant Andrew Zimbalist told the Globe. A combination of the team’s rent payments and revenue from the tax district will go toward paying down the construction debt. 

The team estimates the special tax zone will generate more revenue than the $3M annual payment requirement, but Worcester is responsible for payments if revenue falls short. While Worcester agreed to those conditions, Rhode Island’s unwillingness to make a similar guarantee is seen as what sealed the deal for the move.