Lowell Spinners, Fans React to PawSox Move
LOWELL -- Lowell Spinners owner Dave Heller says his team is going to have to work even harder to keep fans in the seats now that the Pawtucket Red Sox announced they will be moving from Rhode Island to Worcester in three years.
The move means the Triple-A Red Sox affiliate will be just about 40 miles away from the Single-A Spinners, which brings a competing ballpark and games much closer. But fans at Lelacheur Park for Friday night’s game against the Tri-City ValleyCats expressed little interest in heading to Worcester instead.
Justin and Katelyn Sultzbach, of Lowell, said they go to Spinners games as much for the atmosphere and family activities as the baseball.
“If I just want baseball, I’ll go see the (Boston) Red Sox,” Katelyn Sultzbach said, citing candy drops from helicopters among the activities the Spinners offer.
Families like the Sultzbachs may like what they find in the future, because Heller said he plans to offer more activities and “Spinnertainment” as a way to remain competitive now that new neighbors are coming north.
“We’re going to invest in our ballpark. We’re going to improve the park, and continue to provide even more outlandish Spinnertainment than we have been,” Heller said. “We’ll just have to work that much harder.”
He said the club spent about $1 million on improvements to the park last year, and plan to spend another $1 million this year.
“We have no plans to cancel that now because of this,” Heller said. “It’s more important now than it ever was.”
Heller said one thing that every Spinners fan should be sure of is that he has absolutely no intention of leaving Lowell just because of some new neighbors.
“There is zero chance I would leave Lowell. I love Lowell,” Heller said. “I’m so proud to own the Spinners and so proud to have a team that wears the word ‘Lowell’ across it’s chest and a big ‘L’ on its cap.”
Nevertheless, Heller said support from the city and fans will be key to keeping the club successful in an environment with more competition.
“We in Lowell have been challenged many times before and we’re going to do our best to raise our game and compete,” Heller said.
Heller said he is looking into getting another children’s ride at the park next year, and will also focus on more special events like Friday’s Rock ‘Em Sock ’Em Robots Rumble, and Spongebob Squarepants night on Sunday. That event will see the club wear Spongebob Squarepants jerseys that will be auctioned off to raise money for charity after the game.
And fans at the park on Friday night saw real appeal in Heller’s strategy.
Eric Benson, of Tewksbury, was at the game with his wife Irene and daughter Sarah since Sarah got him ticket as a Father’s Day gift.
He said he’ll visit the new Worcester stadium for a game once it’s built, but that Lowell will still be his go-to club.
“It’s more of a community atmosphere here and it’s a nice ballpark,” Benson said. “I can see myself going there once a year, but I’ll still come here first.”
Juliette Turner, of Chelmsford, was at the game with her daughter Emily since Emily dances at games once a year with her dance troupe.
“If it’s not going to be fun for the kids and going out on the grass and getting involved, then we’d go to the (Boston) Red Sox instead,” Turner said.
For John Ryan, of Tewksbury, the answer was even more simple. He’ll continue attending Spinners games just because they’re closer to home.
“I don’t think they’ll draw people away,” said Jim Lombardi, of Tewksbury, in reference to the Triple-A club. Lombardi was at the game with his family, including two young kids, both of whom got their faces painted, and one of whom ended up with a foul ball after an adult who caught it in a scrum in the stands handed it to him afterward.
Another baseball team that calls Central Mass. home, the Worcester Bravehearts of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League, issued a press release Friday reacting to the news. The Bravehearts play their home games at Fitton Field in Worcester.
“On behalf of the Worcester Bravehearts organization, I understand and appreciate the euphoric excitement that most, if not all, people in Central Massachusetts feel with the announcement that the Pawtucket Red Sox are relocating to Worcester, MA,” reads an excerpt from the full statement, which was signed by team owner John W.S. Creedon Jr. “I hope that people can understand and pardon my family and me for respectfully not sharing in the elation at this time where the impact of all this on the Worcester Bravehearts’ business operation remains to be seen.”
Pawtucket Red Sox officials signed a deal Friday that aims to move the organization to Worcester.
At a news conference in Worcester, city and state officials also unveiled plans for a new development that will include a $90 million stadium for the team along with two hotels, hundreds of apartment units, a parking garage and retail spaces.
After announcing the news, Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty received a standing ovation and chants of “WooSox.” The phrase has been suggested as a new nickname for the team, which is commonly called the PawSox.
The team said it will continue to play at the 77-year-old McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket for the next two years.
PawSox officials said in July 2017 they would field offers from other cities interested in helping them build a new stadium after they failed to reach an agreement to remain in Pawtucket. Days later, about 10,000 postcards signed by fans urging the PawSox to move to Worcester were delivered to team offices.
In June, Raimondo signed legislation designed to keep the team in Pawtucket. That legislation enables the team, the state and the city to begin shopping for bonds to finance a new stadium in Pawtucket.
Under Rhode Island’s plan, the PawSox would contribute $45 million to the $83 million project and be responsible for any cost overruns. The state and the city would be responsible for the remaining $38 million in bonds.
Worcester officials had continued courting the team even as it negotiated with Rhode Island.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.