Worcester’s Relationship with Polar Park Remains Under Negotiation
Dan Etna, co-chair of Herrick's Sports Law Group was quoted in the Worcester Business Journal regarding the move of the minor league baseball team, Pawtucket Red Sox (PawSox), to Worcester, MA. According to the article, PawSox is scheduled to begin play in April 2021 in a new $132-million public stadium called Polar Park, for which the city is only now obtaining the property on which the ballpark sits; approximately 19 months after the original deadline for it to obtain that deed.
The article notes that in the absence of a formal deed to the site, the city has relied on a series of right-of-entry agreements with the developer to continue construction. Both have signed a number of extensions to the right-of-entry contracts, with the latest extension being granted through the end of September. The Worcester Redevelopment Authority recently approved the conveyance of the ballpark property to the city with the land transfer expected to take place at a later date. Despite obstacles and delays do to the COVID-19 pandemic, the PawSox and the city have been working hard together to ensure that the ballpark is ready for an April 2021 Opening Day.
The article also notes that the absence of executed agreements gives the team and developer negotiating power over the city. According to the report, the construction is over budget and the coronavirus pandemic will likely affect the profitability and viability of the proposed surrounding development that includes hotels, apartments, retail and office space. As a result, Etna "speculated Madison [the developer] could be using the deed transaction as leverage to make the mixed-use project more viable."
“Perhaps the developer’s going to be able to get some sort of benefits” because the city needs a sale transaction to take place, said Etna. “The developer’s end game is not to sit there with an undeveloped project.”