Worcester councilmember says “we should take a bow” for giving $70m to Red Sox minor-league team

The Worcester city council gave preliminary approval yesterday to a $70 million city subsidy for a Red Sox Triple-A baseball stadium, and let’s take a look at some of the quotes that elected officials are most likely to end up embarrassed about if this whole plan crashes and burns, as most economists expect it will:

“This is really about a proud moment for our city, a historic moment for our city,” City Councilor Candy Mero-Carlson said, before giving the council a pat on the back for pushing for the ballpark plan in the first place last year. “We should really take a bow here.”

An excellent start! Can anyone top that?

“My support is a resounding yes,” Councilor Gary Rosen said, adding he considers surrounding development that’s expected to accompany the stadium critical to how it’ll help the city not only break even on its investment but reap new revenue, according to city projections.

“You can’t beat that,” Rosen said. “The stadium will pay for itself.”

Even the economist you hired to devise the stadium deal doesn’t think that’s how it will work! (And he thinks that this “point has come across really well,” which he might want to now reassess.)

What else we got?

“We’re not going to stop doing other important things we already are doing, including education,” [City Manager Edward] Augustus said. “I see this project as an opportunity to help pay for those other projects. I see this as an opportunity for us to keep growing the pie.”

That’s what Cobb County said.

It is always possible that Worcester will be the exception to the rule, and so much new development will pour in strictly as a result of the stadium that it will create a windfall of new tax money — and even that that new tax money won’t immediately need to be spent on new schools and other services for all the people living in that new development but not paying property taxes to the general fund because that money was spent on the stadium. But I think I’ll be setting a Google Calendar reminder for five years from now called “Point and laugh at Worcester city officials,” just in case.

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11 comments on “Worcester councilmember says “we should take a bow” for giving $70m to Red Sox minor-league team

  1. So, I’m watching a Mets game against Baltimore awhile back and the Mets TV announcers extol the virtues of the Orioles stadium and the Inner Harbor development. Meanwhile, the real Baltimore is in shambles. While I have little regard for municipal leaders who sell the public a bill of goods when it comes to public financing of stadiums, it is hard to not embrace that line of thinking when you have the full power of MLB and other professional sports pushing the economic benefits garbage.

    1. Much as I love Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling, they’re not exactly economic development experts.

      The power of having 162 TV broadcasts a year to have announcers in your employ sell your stadium message really can’t be overstated. Anyone remember the “Yes on C” push during the 1998 World Series that helped get the Padres a pile of money for a new stadium?

      1. Any anyone who listened to or watched a yankees game on the radio or television had to listen to the broadcasters talk about what a “dump” the stadium was compared to camden yards.

        For ten years.

    2. I went to an Orioles-Red Sox game at Camden Yards earlier this year and the place was EMPTY. The area around Camden Yards (which is more than half a mile from the Inner Harbor, BTW) is dead when there’s no game.

      This is 22 years after the revolutionary stadium opened. Remember, Worcester’s ROI is 30 years. My guess is the team will be crying for another new stadium long before 2051.

      1. Also important to note here: the inner harbor redevelopment was *well* under way when the O’s decided to move there.

        So this is another example of people misunderstanding the impact of siting a professional sports facility. They do not lead redevelopment, they follow.

  2. Hovering around 42% of capacity for the season and with a terrible team on the field, (and for the foreseeable future), the financial future of Camden Yards is not looking good.

    1. The bonds are paid off in 2019 and the team’s lease is up in 2021.

      Time to start lobbying for a new stadium!

  3. Yes, expanding into the DC area really helped the Baltimore franchise. Perhaps MLB should only field 12 or less teams like they do in Japan and other leagues.

  4. Worcester is an old industrial city–one of the first in the US. It was famous for textiles, paper, and especially machine tools. When you look at downtown Worcester–you see the mammoth buildings that employed thousands and haven’t been open for years. It has education and health care, but these types of businesses seem to generate mostly low-paid service jobs.

    Yes, the politicians are saying crazy things, but the reality is that cities like Worcester are struggling and have very few options to “grow the pie”. You can build a shiny new building and have a bank move in, but that doesn’t mean that things are better. Or, more typically, you can take an old mill and fill it with glass blowers and coffee shops and make up maybe 5% of the lost economic activity. Ballparks fit in into the space left by a real intellectual deficit in economic development thinking in our country.

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