Early analysis shows stadium is allowed at Apex site

Early analysis shows stadium is allowed at Apex site

PawSox officials appear to be giving up on McCoy

PAWTUCKET – A zone change approved by the City Council two years ago would allow construction of a new baseball stadium at the Apex Department Store property without any additional modifications, a preliminary analysis shows.

City Councilor Albert Vitali Jr. asked last week if interim Director of Planning and Redevelopment Sue Mara could inform the council on whether the stadium would be allowed at the riverfront site under current zoning constraints or whether the council would need to make changes to pave the way for a potential new stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox.

Vitali said he wants to try to help the owners of the PawSox build a “new McCoy Stadium” and “help in any way we can to keep the PawSox at home in Pawtucket.”

Mara is now in the process of drafting a response to the council with a full analysis of the site and allowed uses, but city officials confirmed Monday that a stadium would be allowed.

The council’s request last week came after officials from the PawSox all but confirmed to them that the current site for McCoy Stadium is not viable going forward. They pointed to a recently released feasibility study showing expensive repair or replacement costs with limited economic upside.

The Breeze reported in August of 2015 that the City Council approved a zone change allowing the Riverfront Commons District to be formed. Riverfront Commons is the name Apex owner Andrew Gates has long publicized for his planned mixed-use Riverfront Commons development that’s yet to materialize.

The Breeze broke the news last month that the owners of the PawSox were looking to possibly build a new stadium at the Apex property. That was before the results of a feasibility analysis revealed how expensive it would be to renovate the existing McCoy Stadium up the road or build a new one at that site. City officials have also offered several alternative sites for a new stadium.

Gates and his team have said little about the news, other than to confirm that they’ve participated in some negotiations with PawSox owners.

As part of that 2015 zone change, the George’s Games building at 101 Main St. was lumped into a unified district with the Apex building and two other properties across the street.

According to the Pawtucket Zoning Ordinance, the purpose of the Riverfront Commons District is to encourage use and development of previously developed properties at and around Apex by promoting flexibility in use and design while being cognizant of its close proximity to the river.

Though baseball stadiums aren’t mentioned specifically in the ordinance, it allows general commercial uses, education facilities, multi-residential uses, personal services, business services, office uses, automotive repairs, wholesale uses, industrial space, and storage.

At last Wednesday’s council meeting, PawSox General Manager Dan Rea said the team is still “digesting the numbers” from the feasibility study, but called the estimates of $68 million for renovations at McCoy and $78 million for a new stadium at the existing site “significant and sobering.”

Rea pledged that team officials are looking at the study “with clear eyes,” but sounded doubtful about whether the existing site for McCoy makes sense going forward. He expressed a “desire and willingness” to work with Pawtucket officials on finding a long-term solution for the team “somewhere in the city of Pawtucket.”

Council members thanked team officials for their willingness to prioritize staying in Pawtucket, adding that they want to do everything possible to make it happen.

Mike Tamburro, vice chairman of the PawSox, sounded even more resigned to the team leaving McCoy for a new site. McCoy has been a “great park” and served its purpose well for decades, he said, “but perhaps it’s done its job.”

“Let’s find a long-term solution so we can make a long-term commitment,” he said.

Tamburro noted the difference in the relationship between the team’s new owners and Pawtucket officials since two years ago, when it was first announced that the team might move to Providence.

Council President David Moran said the PawSox franchise continues to be “a gem for the city,” and officials “certainly want to keep you” in the city. Moran asked Rea if he expects some kind of announcement on the team’s future within the next few months, and Rea responded that he does expect such news to be forthcoming.

During a luncheon last Tuesday, executives from the Boston Red Sox stated their support for keeping the PawSox in Pawtucket, within easy distance to Boston, but said they don’t plan to finance the project. Officials from the Major League club said they would love to see a new stadium built with similar dimensions to Fenway Park to ease the transition of young players when they’re promoted to the Red Sox.