The Worcester Telegram and Gazette reported that the council also approved a $101 million loan order to build a 10,000-seat ballpark in Kelley Square.
The PawSox announced a deal with Worcester in August. Negotiations to keep the team in Pawtucket hit a roadblock in the General Assembly.
Organized professional baseball in the form of an affiliated minor league team - in this case the Boston Red Sox top minor league team - is making its way back to Worcester.
The City Council Tuesday night paved the way when it overwhelmingly approved a resolution in support of a deal negotiated by City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. to bring the Pawtucket Red Sox to Worcester.
The council also gave initial approval to loan orders totaling up to $100.8 million for the construction of a 10,000-seat ballpark in the Kelley Square area that will be the home of the Worcester Red Sox beginning with the 2021 season.
The first vote was to advertise the loan order; a second and final vote on it will be taken by the council at its meeting on Sept. 25.
In addition, the City Council approved resolutions in support of tax-increment financing deals for Madison Downtown Holdings, LLC for the construction of two hotels that are part of an overall $240 million redevelopment of the Kelley Square area, and in support of a tax-increment exemption deal, also for Madison Downtown Holdings, for the construction of a 225-unit apartment complex on the south side of Madison Street.
The vote on all the items collectively was 9-1, with Councilor-at-Large Konstantina B. Lukes casting the lone vote in opposition. She did not feel the council had enough information to take a vote at this time, given some of the unanswered questions that she said still exist.
District 5 Councilor Matthew E. Wally recused himself from voting and discussing the items because of his employment at a company that has a financial involvement with the relocation of the PawSox.
When the roll call vote was completed, many of those in attendance in the City Council chamber rose and enthusiastically applauded.
Worcester has not had an affiliated minor league baseball team since 1934 when the Worcester Rosebuds played in the former Class A Northeastern League. That was a time when the likes of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Dizzy Dean and Hank Greenberg were stars at the major league level.
Now, as the new home of the Boston Red Sox Triple A minor league team, Central Massachusetts residents will have an opportunity in a few years to see the major league stars of the future.
“This is really about a proud moment for our city and a historic moment for our city,” said District 2 Councilor Candy Mero-Carlson. “There is so much excitement in this city about this, Never, ever have I seen so much excitement.”
Mayor Joseph M. Petty called the Kelley Square project, which includes the construction of an $86 million to $90 million city-owned baseball stadium and $90 million in associated private development, one of the biggest and most important economic development projects going forward in Worcester in his lifetime.
He praised Mr. Augustus and the team he assembled for the job they did in negotiating the deal with the PawSox, as well as other community players that were involved including the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, local businesses and neighborhood leaders.
“The city manager did a wonderful job putting this together,” Mr. Petty said. “It was a community effort to get this Red Sox team. They know they are welcome here, they are very welcome.”
In an interview after the council vote, PawSox Chairman Larry Lucchino thanked the City Council, city manager and mayor for their support.
He said the team is eager to proceed with the ballpark project and getting the team relocated to Worcester for the 2021 season.
Mr. Lucchino said the move must still be approved by the International League, of which the PawSox are a member, and Major League Baseball. He said those approvals could come as soon as later this week.
“In our business, a 9-1 vote is a very decisive outcome and we are most appreciative of the support we received from the City Council,” Mr. Lucchino said. “We also appreciate and respect the input we heard from residents about this project. We found those public hearings to be useful exercises.”
The council vote culminates a process that began in August 2017 when the council overwhelmingly approved a resolution in support of local efforts to woo the PawSox to the city. It called on Mr. Augustus to do all that is reasonably in his power to facilitate bringing the team here.
Mr. Augustus and PawSox officials spent roughly a year negotiating a deal, which was finally unveiled on Aug. 17.
The city manager and city councilors emphasized that the project involves more than just bringing a minor league baseball team to Worcester and building a ballpark for it.
It includes a large-scale development of 18 acres of largely vacant and blighted property in the Kelley Square area, most of which – on the north and south sides of Madison Street – is owned by Wyman-Gordon Co.
The deal includes a development blueprint that calls for $90 million in private development by Madison Downtown Holdings that includes a 150-room hotel, a second boutique hotel consisting of about 100-110 rooms overlooking the ballpark, 225 market-rate apartments and 65,000 square feet of retail/restaurants space. A second phase of the project would include 200,000 square feet of residential, office and/or mixed-used development.
Property taxes, lease revenues generated by the stadium and other new revenues generated by the private development will be used to pay the debt on the bonds for the ballpark. Mr. Augustus once again emphasized that no existing tax money will be used to pay the bonds nor will it require the need to raise additional property taxes just for that purpose.
In addition, the team will make a $6 million equity contribution toward the construction and equipping of the ballpark.
If all goes well, he said the private development is expected to generate a surplus of as much as $22 million over 30 years. That money, in turn, can then be used to fund other city programs, services and projects.
“Were not going to stop doing other important things we already are doing, including education,” Mr. 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.”
Mrs. Lukes did not rule out the possibility of supporting the loan order when it comes up for a second vote later this month if she is able to get answers to questions she raised. She said the fact that the project involves the redevelopment of a part of the city that has been ignored for decades.
“Im more likely to support (the project) than not, but not at this time,” Mrs. Lukes said. “This project still has a lot of questions pending. I feel were in a rush to put this forward.”
“We did our job,” he said. “Were not rushing this through. It was vetted at the committee level at two public hearings.”