The Pawtucket Red Sox, or the PawSox, as fans refer to them, unveiled plans for “The Ballpark at Slater Mill,” an $83 million, 9,000- to 10,000-seat venue that would not only replace the team’s current home, 75-year-old McCoy Stadium, but also serve as a year-round attraction for the town and an anchor for a recreation and tourism district next to historic Slater Mill, a cotton mill converted to a museum. The Pawtucket Red Sox are a minor league baseball team affiliated with the Boston Red Sox.
With its proposal, the PawSox are following the lead of the Durham Bulls in North Carolina, the 51s in Las Vegas, and other teams demonstrating that minor league ballparks can be catalysts for economic growth and urban revitalization by anchoring larger commercial districts and sparking additional development nearby.
D’Agostino Izzo Quirk Architects (DAIQ) of Somerville, Massachusetts prepared a conceptual design for the ballpark, which would mark a new gateway to Rhode Island for drivers traveling on I-95. The design would enable it to accommodate not only the ball club’s games but community events such as concerts, farmers’ markets, college football and ice skating.
“It will be more than a ballpark,” said PawSox Chairman Larry Lucchino, in a statement about the proposed design. “It will be a city park, open year-round.” He added, “From a baseball standpoint, it would have Fenway Park’s playing dimensions, high tech innovations, and the PawSox’ tradition of affordable pricing. And importantly, it will take the franchise from financial uncertainty to stable financial condition.”
Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien said, “Pawtucket has a unique opportunity to use the drawing power of a ballpark to serve as a catalyst in the redevelopment of our city. Pawtucket…needs this special catalyst.”
With a population of 71,427, Pawtucket has been called the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution. It’s also the birthplace of Raymond Hood, architect of the Chicago Tribune tower, who was Ayn Rand’s inspiration for Peter Keating, Howard Roark’s nemesis in The Fountainhead.
Slater Mill is a local landmark and symbol of the town’s industrial past. Built in 1793, it was the first successful cotton weaving mill in colonial America. The mill closed in the early 1920s and was restored in 1925 as one of America’s first industrial museums. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966, it’s now part of a three-building campus and open for guided tours.
The Ballpark at Slater Mill is not a done deal. The proposal is one of several options the team is considering because its lease for McCoy Stadium expires in 2020. The team needs funding support from the state legislature before it can move ahead and is awaiting action from state legislators.
Working with Kansas City-based Pendulum, the PawSox have studied plans for upgrading McCoy Stadium, which opened in 1942 and is farther from the heart of town. According to one estimate, it needs $68 million worth of improvements. The PawSox say they don’t view that as a viable option because of the cost and the lack of ability to spur other investment.
Another option is to leave Pawtucket and build elsewhere. Other towns have shown interest, including Worcester and Springfield, Massachusetts. The Slater Mill proposal is the team’s preferred choice, according to PawSox representatives.
The team also announced this summer that it is working with Janet Marie Smith, a nationally recognized urban designer and planner and current senior vice president of planning and development with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Smith, who will remain in her position with the Dodgers while assisting the PawSox, said she has been asked to evaluate the team’s options for new construction and expects to have recommendations later this year.