PawSox Chairman Larry Licchino signed a letter of intent to build a new ballpark in Worcester during a ceremony at city hall Friday, according to a statement from the team.
The team has played in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, at McCoy Stadium since 1973.
"We are eager to build an innovative, family-friendly ballpark that reflects the love and appreciation of baseball and that unifies Central Massachusetts and the Blackstone Valley Corridor," Lucchino said.
The ballpark, which will be called Polar Park for its sponsor Polar Seltzer, is scheduled to open in 2021. However, the project still needs to be approved by the Worcester City Council, the International League, and the National Association of Professional Baseball Players. The new ballpark is designed to be used year-round, not just during baseball season.
"This day marks a major milestone on a journey that began 12 months ago,” Lucchino said. "Through the entire process, the spirit of collaboration and cooperation between the City of Worcester and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has been inspiring.”
While fans in Worcester celebrated the announcement, people in Pawtucket are not as thrilled about the move.
Sherill Barrette, a long-time Pawtucket resident, was having lunch at the Right Spot Diner, next door to McCoy Stadium, the day the annoucement was made.
“I think that it's all wrong," she said. "They shouldn't leave. The mayor should have done more. I mean not that we should pay either, but the mayor should have done more."
The new Worcester stadium will be built with $35 million in state assistance from Massachusetts.
New York Times senior writer Dan Barry used to live in Pawtucket, and wrote for the Providence Journal. He’s also the author of the book “Bottom of the 33rd: Hope, Redemption, and Baseball's Longest Game,” about the longest game in history, between the PawSox and Rochester Red Wings.
Without the PawSox, Barry said the city would lose an important part of its identification.
“The zoo closed, the mills closed, and there have been efforts over the years to have some kind of a renaissance or revitalization," he said. "And they haven't always really been that successful. But the one thing that this city of Pawtucket had was the Pawtucket Red Sox.”
The ballpark was used by everyone young and old.
“People would go to the stadium and know that for just a few dollars they could watch high level baseball. There was no charge for parking. All the costs were kept low, specifically by the owners, so that this was a family outing, and that the family wouldn't have to hock their heirlooms to have four seats in the grandstands," Barry said. "And so it really mattered to the to the psyche of not only Pawtucket but I think the entire state of Rhode Island.”
Reporters Craig LeMoult and Tina Martin contributed to this report.