Spinners: ‘Don’t Forget About Us’
LOWELL -- Don’t forget about us.
That was the message from Lowell Spinners officials Tuesday morning as they delivered a pitch to the state’s top economic development official at LeLacheur Park, a few days after Pawtucket Red Sox officials signed a deal to move to Worcester.
The Spinners welcomed Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash amid concerns about a competing ballpark and a Triple-A Red Sox affiliate moving only 40 miles away. Spinners’ officials stress it’s critically important that their team remains a Red Sox affiliate.
While the Worcester development will include a 10,000-seat stadium along with two hotels, apartment units and retail spaces, Single-A Spinners Owner Dave Heller on Tuesday showed Ash the economic development potential in Lowell.
During the tour, Heller elaborated on the team’s interest in continuing to invest in LeLacheur Park with a boutique hotel, residential development and/or retail space.
“I love Lowell, and I believe in Lowell,” Heller said after the meeting. “I’m excited about the future in Lowell and investing here.
“I want to make sure we can take advantage of any incentives that are available from the state,” he added.
The state will contribute $35 million to the Worcester project.
Heller called Tuesday’s meeting with Ash a “preliminary first step.”
“It was a positive meeting,” Heller said. “We gave him a tour, and explained what we’re thinking. He listened and was engaged. It was good.”
Heller said the timing of the meeting, a few days after the Worcester announcement, was “completely coincidental.” The meeting had been planned for a number of weeks, he said.
As part of his work as secretary, Ash travels the state -- regularly meeting with numerous local officials, community leaders and more to learn about activities happening at the local level.
On Twitter Tuesday morning, Ash tweeted out a photo from the Owl Diner with the comment: “Good morn, Lowell. Here supporting your continued revitalization...”
He did not tweet from the ballpark, but later posted from the ribbon-cutting at Digital Federal Credit Union in Chelmsford.
The Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development declined to provide specific details on the Spinners’ tour and meeting on Tuesday. The office did not make Ash available for comment.
Other attendees at the Spinners’ meeting included Lowell Rep. Tom Golden, Spinners General Manager Shawn Smith, former City Manager Brian Martin, who was instrumental in bringing the team to Lowell, and former Sen. Steve Panagiotakos, who represents Heller.
“With so much talk of the Worcester stadium, we just thought it’s important to show the commitment the Spinners have made to the area,” Panagiotakos said. “We wanted to show what it means for our area to have the Spinners here, so the Spinners aren’t lost in the shuffle.”
The lawyer said the meeting with Ash was very positive, and that he appreciates what the Spinners bring to the Merrimack Valley.
“Both from a social standpoint and economic standpoint,” Panagiotakos said. “It’s something he was encouraged to see continue.”
Heller is the founder of Main Street Baseball and owns four minor league baseball teams -- in Lowell; Davenport, Iowa; Billings, Montana; and Wilmington, Delaware.
The Spinners contract as a Red Sox affiliate goes until 2020.
“We’re very proud to be a Red Sox affiliate, and we’re going to do every single thing to remain that,” Heller said. “The best way is for the community to continue supporting the team, and for us and the city to continue making investments in the ballpark.”
He emphasized that the Red Sox want to make sure they have a first-rate facility to develop players.
“We need to make sure we’re offering the best possible option for them,” he said.
“There’s no guarantee, and we take nothing for granted,” Heller added.
Since taking over, Heller has added a Fun Zone for kids and a variety of concessions.
A pavilion in right field for group outings is planned to be ready for the 2019 season. It will be called the Macom Pavilion and will be a two-tiered party deck available for group and company outings.
Heller has said he’s looking into getting another children’s ride at the park next year, and will also focus on more special events. He plans to offer more activities and “Spinnertainment” as a way to remain competitive.
There’s been talk of a hotel at the ballpark and residential development. Developer Sal Lupoli recently said he’s working with Heller on some “new and exciting ideas.”
Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun.