Worcester stadium hits $157m, is now the most expensive minor-league park of all time

The city of Worcester issued an update on Friday (actually dated tomorrow, but whatever) on its new Red Sox Triple-A stadium, which is full of small-type charts and lists and generally pretty dry. But Grant Welker of the Worcester Business Journal got out his abacus and went to work on the numbers, and was able to report this:

The cost of building Polar Park, the new home of the minor league Worcester Red Sox, has risen to $157 million, Worcester officials said Friday afternoon, reflecting cost increases stemming largely from the coronavirus pandemic.

With the increase, the public facility will become the most expensive minor league baseball stadium ever built, surpassing the inflation adjusted $153-million home of the Las Vegas Aviators.

May I be the first to say: Yikes!

The WooSox owners are paying for the latest $17.3 million in cost overruns, so at least this won’t cost Worcester more than the $100 million or so in subsidies that were approved back in 2018. Still, how on earth did this project’s costs balloon so rapidly?

The last time the stadium ran into overruns, it was $30 million in added costs that, according to Welker, mostly stemmed from “unexpected costs borne by the city for obtaining adjacent parcels, moving businesses and knocking down buildings to make way for the ballpark.” (Also because Worcester officials forgot how hills work. Let us never forget that.) This time it’s undefined pandemic-related costs: Some this appears to be “we had to stop work for seven weeks and still need to finish by spring 2021 (assuming there’s baseball in spring 2021)” and some of it something about supply chains mumble mumble, but still, $17.3 million seems like a lot for that.

The WooSox also have agreed to a lease, which is good because nobody remembered to do that before approving the subsidies and starting construction; I haven’t read through it fully yet, but it looks unremarkable. And the update also includes a whole bunch of new renderings, so let’s enjoy some of those now:

That’s unremarkable enough, though it’s amusing that some ad sponsors have been specified (Shaw’s grocery store) while others still just say “SPONSOR.” (Where the first-base coaching box should be. I’m not sure that’s allowable under baseball rules.) Also the team logo appears to be a smiley face with arms and legs. And Red Sox two-time All-Star shortstop Xander Bogaerts appears to have been demoted to the minors, or maybe is there on a rehab assignment. Otherwise, nothing too alarming.

Now it’s getting alarming. Why are there giant statues of Red Sox championship rings, and what does that small child and his mom find so fascinating about them? Other than that, looks like a pleasant enough plaza, though I’m not sure it’s advisable for the couple at the far right to walk through it barefoot.

What the hell? As a parent, I know something about what kids want in a baseball-themed playground, and it would either be 1) a miniature ballpark where you can play wiffle ball or 2) a big-ass slide. Baseball-themed boulders and a basepath covered in giant golf tees seem like odd design choices, and that’s even before we get to the smiley-face mascot (which must be inhabited by either a person with an abnormally short torso or with no head) playing keepaway with a baseball bat with a small child. We are well on our way to Boschian hellscape here.

This image, of a grassy hill outside the ballpark called Home Plate Hill because it’s kind of adjacent to the home plate grandstand, I guess, is unremarkable except for the woman at left who appears to be taking a photo of her dog using a large cinnamon roll as a camera.

Big Blue Bug Solutions is, as you might expect, a pest control service. It has apparently contracted to show off its solutions for pest removal by sponsoring an area where a select few fans can enjoy close-up views of the game without any protective netting, the better to be squashed like bugs by any foul balls.

Okay, it turns out Xander Bogaerts hasn’t been demoted — or rather, he’s been demoted to an unearthly realm where various Red Sox players of the last 50 years are all consigned to play out their declining years in a minor-league ballpark. Also Jim Rice has to play first base which he never once did in real life, even though Carl Yastrzemski, who did play lots of first base, could easily be moved there from Rice’s preferred position of left field. Clearly whoever constructed this image really has it in for Jim Rice — look, he’s even batting 9th, while the unheralded Jarrod Saltalamacchia bats cleanup — which is fair, Jim Rice was one of the most overrated players in baseball history.

Finally, we have the Ecotarium, Museum of Science and Nature, which seems to consist entirely of an exhibit on pitch speed, which you would think would at least include a radar gun and a place where kids could try out their feeble throwing arms and learn something about how radar works or something. But no! It’s just a cardboard cutout of a kid throwing a ball, at a distance of maybe ten feet from a photograph of a catcher. I’m almost willing to believe that this is supposed to be a real kid but the colorist screwed up, but if so why is he being forced to deliver his pitch over a counter? And won’t errant throws grievously injure those two older kids nearby admiring the ceiling? Oh wait, I get it — the science here is medical science, and kids will be able to see it in action up close and personal when EMTs have to rush to the aid of someone who’s just been concussed by a baseball delivered to their noggin at close range! I take it back, these people totally know what will entertain a small child — can’t wait to make my first visit!

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13 comments on “Worcester stadium hits $157m, is now the most expensive minor-league park of all time

  1. Maybe this is an alternate Field of Dreams like world where they contacted dead players to see whether “if they built it they would come” and found Joe Jackson and others said bugger off. So Bogaerts and Saltalamacchia it is.

    Confused by having Saltalamacchia in the line up. He only played for them for three seasons, as I recall. You’d think they would have gone for Fisk, or maybe Varitek. Even Gedman…

    $157 million. I remember when that used to be a LOT of money…

    1. Maybe they wanted to show off the hugeness of the scoreboard by demonstrating that “Saltalamacchia” fits on it.

  2. From the outside it does actually look like a very nice grocery store. Glad they didn’t put any grocery cart chutes in the way of the entrance.

  3. The smiley-face mascot looks strikingly similar to the old Kool-Aid one. Albeit in a creepier “Black Mirror”/”Doctor Who” kind of way. And the original was plenty creepy enough!

  4. Wow. Sounds like someone isn’t happen with this stadium. Haha. What a funny article. Also, I love how the scoreboard doesn’t show the one thing it should show, the score.

    1. There’s another scoreboard on the right-field wall (not pictured in this post, but you can see it if you click on the first link above) that shows the line score. Though you would think they would put the score on the big board as well, yeah, so that fans sitting in right field have any clue who’s winning.

  5. Regarding the Worcester mascot, had writer deMause done his Worcester research, he would know that the smiley face design is attributed to local commercial artist Harvey Ball, who created it in the 1960s. It is an icon that Worcesterites are proud of and embrace. Perhaps deMause will attend the next annual Harvey Ball gala (in October) to support the late Ball’s nonprofit World Smile Foundation.

  6. Worcester was also the manufacturing hub for the buildings used by American diners. Initial drawings featured diner-hosted food concession options. I hope Worcester isn’t turning its back on this in the final design.

  7. So last week the city mgr said the cost of the corona virus hold ups was in 1.6 mil. The woosox wont pay the 17.3. The city is taking a 17 mil loan to loan the sox 14 to cover their agreed portion that will be paid back by increased prices, fees ect. Plus they get out of paying the already due 6 mil. Nice deal. Agreed to extending the lease but dont have to stay the extra so could get stuck with an empty field during that time.

  8. We so dodged a bullet. My only disappointment is that Pawtucket never got to say goodbye to the Pawsox (I will never say woosox. It sounds ridiculous). Its also sad that I never got to take my daughter to a game. She was too young at the time.

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