WORCESTER, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — City leaders and Pawtucket Red Sox officials broke ground Thursday on Polar Park, the future new home of the AAA baseball team.
It's part of a larger project that is forcing several area businesses to relocate.
Along with the new $90 million ballpark, apartments, restaurants, an office building, and hotel are coming to the blighted 18-acre industrial site. The entire project totals around $240 million dollars.
Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty and other city and state officials toasted the new Polar Park with Polar Seltzer, a a soft drink company based in the city.
PawSox chairman Larry Lucchino told the hundreds gathered that he has every expectation that the park will be open by April of 2021.
"We do not promise you another eighth wonder of the world," he said. "What we do promise is a nice little ballpark which we hope will be iconic, that will make you proud, and that will fulfill our broad and shared objectives—economic realization surrounding a distinctive Worcester park, to provide high-quality professional baseball, entertainment, redevelopment."
City Manager Ed Augustus told the crowd gathered that he's excited about the legacy of the park.
"There are going to be generations of people, people will be able to say things like I met my future husband or wife at a ball game," he said. "I remember when my grandfather took me to my first baseball game here, or, I'll never forget that night in high school when we won the Central Mass Championship at Polar Park."
Mayor Petty told the crowd he'd see them back at the park on opening day in two years.
The city has taken eight properties in the Canal District by eminent domain. Those properties host businesses like Paul's Mobile Auto Glass, the Sublime CBD shop, and Table Talk Pies.
Joe O'Brady, owner of Sublime, told WBZ NewsRadio's Kim Tunnicliffe eminent domain is never a good option.
"You're forced into bad business," he said. "We're still waiting for a final number. Luckily, we found a place to move. We're gonna turn a bad situation into a good situation on our own, and that's just the way it is."
Worcester Chief Development Officer Michael Traynor said it's been a business-like transaction with the property owners.
"All of the properties we acquired, we did an eminent domain taking, but all but one property owner, we've reached a complete agreement with the acquisition price, and we're still working with that last property owner," he said.
Traynor said the city is working with a relocation specialist, and is paying moving costs for the businesses. He insists the businesses are being treated fairly.
"We're working with them to help them find a new location," Traynor said. "That's not a requirement of the law, but we want to relocate them into the city and provide as much assistance as we can. We don't want to hurt any of the businesses."
WBZ NewsRadio's Kim Tunnicliffe (@KimWBZ) reports