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Will PawSox Move to Worcester Help Area? It’s Anyone’s Ballgame

August 23, 2018

While the Pawtucket Red Sox’s move from Rhode Island promises to be a home run for Worcester, local leaders have mixed opinions on whether it will benefit the city’s northern neighbors.

“It’s one of these ‘to be determined,’ ” said Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella.

The big obstacle: distance.

Last Friday, the PawSox signed an agreement to move to Worcester in 2021 after months of speculation and courting.

Lunenburg Town Manager Heather Lemieux said she expects Worcester will see economic development and job growth from the deal, though the same may not be true for her town.

“I would hope so, but I think being a half hour away from Worcester we may not see that,” she said.

Leominster is also about a half hour from downtown Worcester -- or as far as “first base,” Mazzarella said. He believes capturing the after-game crowd or other economic benefits depends on marketing.

One strategy could be to place internet ads for people looking for a place to go after the game, he said. Additionally, advertising the area as a region, instead of treating North Central Massachusetts as a separate entity, could help, according to Mazzarella.

Roy Nascimento, president of North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce, said he isn’t sure whether the incoming triple-A minor league baseball team will have an impact on the region.

While the chamber has not started discussing the possibilities raised by the move, Nascimento said he expects his organization will try to collaborate with the Red Sox affiliate.

“We would love to work with them,” he said. “I’m sure they would want to be engaged when they come.”

Fitchburg City Council President Michael Kushmerek is more sure of the baseball team’s local benefits.

“I think this was an obvious win for Worcester, but also a win for the North Central region,” he said.

He said the stadium will bring opportunities for vendors and commercial businesses when it opens in three years. It will also improve “quality of life” in the region by providing entertainment far cheaper and closer than the Red Sox in Boston, he said.

“I think it also makes Worcester and Worcester County a more desirable place to live work and invest,” Kushmerek said.

He said Boston’s success has pushed people in search of affordable housing and jobs to Worcester. If Worcester sees a similar boom, it may push people to North Central Massachusetts, Kushmerek said.

Nascimento believes this region will help fill the stands at the new stadium, possibly at the cost of other teams, like the Lowell Spinners, another Red Sox affiliate.

“I imagine that it would probably cannibalize some of the attendance,” he said.

Last year, the Wachusett Dirt Dawgs, a Futures League team, announced they were looking for a new home after the Doyle Field Commission terminated the team’s permit to play on the Leominster field.

Nascimento said people who once watched the Dirt Dawgs may head to Worcester to see the minor league team instead..

Mazzarella also expects local support for the Worcester team.

“I think their attendance will be incredible,” he said.

Worcester officials courted the team for over a year before the announcement Friday.

In July 2017, the PawSox called for offers from other cities interested in helping them build a new stadium after they failed to reach an agreement to remain in Pawtucket. Rhode Island passed legislation earlier this year designed to try to keep the team in the state.

The PawSox currently play in the 77-year-old McCoy Stadium. On Friday, Worcester announced the agreement along with a $90 million stadium, two hotels, hundreds of apartment units, a parking garage and retail spaces.

Follow Elizabeth Dobbins on Twitter @ElizDobbins.

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