November 12, 2018

Support the WooSox public investment

Donna Truex

With investment pumping into developments all over the city, people throughout Massachusetts are talking about Worcester. Yet, the public investment largely spurring this revitalization has been maligned.

Economists have warned against city's investment of $101 million for a 10,000-seat baseball stadium for the Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. Maybe on its own the ballpark is a losing proposition, but in combination with the planned projects surrounding it – two hotels, apartments, restaurants, retail, parking and the reconfiguring of Kelley Square – investing public money is the right move.

The City of Worcester, together with the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Worcester Business Development Corp., has accomplished collaborative efforts bringing private, city, state, and federal funding and tax credits together, leading to growth in performance venues, the restaurant scene and downtown activity. Success comes from having a common vision and forging a new path. It is far too easy to do nothing and hope for the best.

There is a clear appetite for the surrounding development the ballpark will bring. The hotels – with a combined 250 rooms – are entering a market with a 77-percent occupancy rate. This demand comes despite a 50-percent increase in the number of hotel rooms since the start of 2016.

The WooSox already have 19 corporate sponsors, who are expected to provide at least $3.1 million annually during the team's first five years in Worcester, including Polar Beverages, Fallon Health and Table Talk Pies. There is talk of internships and after-school programs, and parts of the new stadium will likely be open to the public for such things as the November Project to run the stadium stairs.

The timing of the project couldn't be better. The city is in the midst of a boom fueled by Boston's economic strength and soaring real estate prices. Only 47 miles from Boston, Worcester offers lower rents, historic buildings, a nearby airport and an educated workforce from its nine colleges.

Yes, investing nine figures in one project is risky, but Worcester now has a new energy. Residents here have always had civic pride, so now with a path to success, it is not likely to flounder. Worcester has serious momentum going. Numerous private developers see it too and are making major investments in the city. It is all too easy to succumb to fear and negativity, but that never built a city.

Worcester is experiencing something very rare. To have the leadership with foresight and wherewithal to capitalize upon it with a viable plan is equally as rare. We, as a community, need to support and contribute to this momentum.

We at Bowditch are impressed and proud to be a part of the renaissance of Worcester, so we are hosting our Fourth Annual Economic Development Summit: The Pitch for Growth on Nov. 13. Investors and developers will present their current projects in Worcester as they look to the future and discuss what is needed to build upon our momentum and stay ahead of the curve.

Donna Truex is a partner at Worcester law firm Bowditch & Dewey LLP, with two decades of experience in real estate law.


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