PAWTUCKET – As a geotechnical study of McCoy Stadium is set to begin later this month, which will help to determine the stability and suitability of the land for its future use, Mayor Donald R. Grebien said that it is possible that the Pawtucket Red Sox may consider extending their lease at the ballpark on a month-by-month basis in the event that Polar Park in Worcester, Mass. is not ready for the start of the 2021 baseball season.
Grebien on Monday said that the PawSox’ lease with McCoy Stadium is set to expire next January and they have the option for a five-year renewal. While that extension certainly won’t happen, with the team ready to relocate to Worcester and become the “WooSox” for the 2021 season, there exists the possibility that the team could go on a monthly basis at the Columbus Avenue ballpark in the event that COVID-19 construction delays or any other issues delay the team from starting the season at Polar Park in April 2021, as is currently the plan.
“They now want to talk about a month-to-month lease after that date expires because they’re going to be in Worcester … If we could work things out, I’m sure there could be a willingness to play a game here if needed. At this point they’ve asked to talk about doing a month-to-month or quarterly … Nothing stands in the way now if they needed to play some games if they wanted to or needed to,” Grebien said.
However, the city is continuing to press ahead on the future uses of McCoy Stadium after the PawSox depart, as Rhode Island Commerce awarded the city a $60,000 grant to perform a geotechnical study, including ground borings, in the ballpark’s area. Civil and environmental engineering consulting firm Fuss and O’Neill will be conducting the geotechnical study, which will begin in July and last until August, and include assessing data from the area and checking stability of the site to determine the feasibility for its next use.
“We have a number of potential options and need to have more clarity from the analysis on what can and cannot be done. We will be able to move forward looking at all of the possibilities,” Grebien said.
“It was a former swamp, we’re not sure what that property can sustain,” Grebien said. “We know it’s open to public access and public fields, but we don’t know what that next use could be. Could it be buildings, open space? … It’s not about what the use is, it’s about what the ground could support, from a structural perspective, what we can build and what we can’t.”
“That’ll determine what the site can handle, then determine what the options are on the table,” the mayor later said.
Options for the future use of the McCoy Stadium land have included independent league baseball or Single-A Minor League Baseball, but Grebien noted “the dynamic of baseball has changed drastically” and “minor league teams might not be in existence.” He also said the potential exists for government complexes or a school being built on the land, but that depends on the results of the geotechnical study.
While nothing is certain in the age of COVID-19, particularly when it comes to the future of the PawSox, Polar Park in Worcester remains on track to be finished by next April, in time for the first pitch of the 2021 WooSox season. The club is still targeting opening next season at their new digs and during a media tour at the ballpark’s construction site last week, developer Janet Marie Smith said “until we have a new plan, that’s our plan” when asked if next April’s target date to open the ballpark remains realistic after losing a month-plus of construction time due to COVID-19.
If that ends up the case, and the PawSox have already played their final game in Pawtucket after a 50-year run filled with countless hits, home runs, and memories at the venerable Columbus Avenue ballpark, Grebien says he is “sad to see them go.”
“Nobody ever anticipated it, we were working closely to have that great final farewell season. Nobody ever anticipated coronavirus or a pandemic,” he said. “It is what it is, we’re going to miss them. We’re going to miss them, they’re a great partner, they’re a long-standing partner.”
“There’s a lot of history, from Ben Mondor to Mike Tamburro to Larry (Lucchino) and Charles (Steinberg), it’s been a great community partner,” Grebien continued. “They’ve lifted a lot for pride, we had a Minor League Baseball team for many years. They were very involved in our diverse community for many years. Think about the loss of that. The one thing I always focused on, as we’re working on the exit strategy, was their community involvement.”
Grebien said while he’ll unquestionably miss thousands coming to the ballpark on summer afternoons and evenings year in and year out, he’s optimistic that the PawSox will retain their charitable endeavors to the city even after they depart north for Worcester, noting the organization has given “hundreds of thousands” to the local Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCAs, and mentoring programs.
“They’ve always been a great community partner, even during this pandemic, they’ve stepped up,” he said.
Jonathan Bissonnette on Twitter @J_Bissonnette