Fiscal 2023 DIF Account

Worcester city councilors pledge due diligence on WooSox stadium



Telegram    August 21, 2018 



 City councilors Tuesday night promised not to be a rubber stamp in reviewing the agreement and financial package that will bring the Boston Red Sox top minor league team to the city and play at a stadium to be built near Kelley Square.

While councilors said they are very much aware of the excitement and enthusiasm generated throughout the city since Friday’s announced move of the Pawtucket Red Sox to Worcester, they said it is their duty to make sure the deal is in the city’s best interests and benefits the community as a whole.





Gary Samela said…
You think Ed Augustus, Joe Petty and Tim Murray are enjoying their free season tickets?
Anonymous said…
What a quote I must have missed it back then. I actually watch the City Council meetings back then and the only one I remember asked any questions and asked for the City Auditor for an independent report was Konnie Lukes. I don't think the other Councilors even know what due diligence is. Finally, my family are not baseball fans so how exactly is this a benefit to this member of the community. I think this benefits out of towners more than residents of the City.
Anonymous said…
Gee, now that all the money is out the door and they gave away the farm to developers on the city taxpayers backs it’s time for due diligence?
For what? You already lost the negotiation!

Oh right, political theater because there is an election coming up, followed by the usual tax increase and maximum possible commercial tax rate on those poor city businesses that bear the brunt of the ballpark side effects.
Gary Samela said…
There have been some non-baseball events at Polar Park this summer that appealed to the community as a whole. Next year there will be concerts and events during the times the team is playing out of town.

There are about 1100 apartments being built or on the board for the areas near Polar Park. Commercial and retail are also being added. So maybe your adding 3,000 people with decent disposable incomes to the area. It's only going to fuel growth in the Canal District.

The commercial tax rate is high, but the fact is that people are still opening businesses here despite that.

Even with TIFs the city coffers are going to be greatly enriched by all the new tax revenue from these projects. You might want to ask yourself what was the alternative? Empty, blighted lots generating minimal tax revenue?

If you attend a game you'll see the great civic pride the fans have.
Anonymous said…
Civic pride is something that the City has always had. Can you measure the "additional" civic pride and if you could, would you place a $175,000,000.00 price tag on it.
With regards to the additional tax revenue that MAY enrich the City coffers these MAY arise if and when the proposed developments are built and at hopefully it will be enough for the City to make its payments on the bonds which were issued to build the ball park.

To date I have only seen the construction of a $175,000,000 ballpark which has enriched the WooSox and a partially constructed public garage. I have not seen the promised private development across the street or in left field. To the contrary, across the street, I see dirt parking lots with a new street. At this time I ask is this worth $175,000,000.00?
Anonymous said…
An unrecognized educational benefit will occur. The sports economy students will not have far to go to do there projects for Dr. Matheson from Holy Cross. You can't put a price on a quality education!
Gary Samela said…
The Pawsox weren't going to come here unless we financed the whole park. Our city leaders made a decision to take on risk in exchange for significant reward.
Massport took similar risk in deciding to invest $100 million in ORH with the hope that it could provide some relief for Logan. That has been a dismal failure so far. I think we'll know in 5 years whether either of these investments paid off.
Anonymous said…
What is a worse insult for a City Councilor, being referred to as a "rubber stamp" or a "bobblehead" ?
Anonymous said…
There is a clear distinction between MassPorts business decision for expansion to Worcester and Worcester building a ballpark. Massport ,which most certainly has some talented staff, most likely conducted an extensive cost benefit analysis in their attempt to alleviate the congestion at Logan and concluded Worcester was the only viable option for expansion being the second largest City in the Commonwealth. Additionallly, their revenues are derived from the airlines and passenger parking and I would assume some of the money that paid for the improvements were from federal grants (our tax dollars indirectly)
With regards to the ballpark, I believe the City issued bonds which will be repaid from the revenues from development across the street which is significantly behind schedule. Ultimately City real estate taxes will be used to pay for the ballpark. I would rather have them pave streets, build a new Burncoat High School and fix the flooding problems in the City first. There is absolutely no risk with these expenses and the reward is truly increasing the quality of life of us City residents and taxpayers.
Anonymous said…
I would venture to guess that the folks at City Hall neither know how to conduct a risk assessment or a cost benefit analysis or actually performed one with the ball park project.
Gary Samela said…
What was the budget for the Worcester Public Schools last year? For that we get crumbling buildings, 40% of teachers that can't pass the MCAT exams themselves and eight grade students that can't read at a third grade level.

Probably, this baseball park is the best thing for these kids. All the new businesses it's going to create will provide needed jobs for them.

Anonymous said…
A few weeks ago I went to a game with a friend who has season tickets.The ballpark is spectacular. We saw a lot of people we have not seen in person in quite some time and I spent more than I expected on concessions. Overall we had a great time. If offered again I probably will go again.Even with all that I still ask myself is this a good investment for the City. We parked at Madison Place walked directly into the ballpark and after the game returned to our car and went home. I don't think the City received any financial benefit from me.
Anonymous said…
Gary, the first truancy of all of those apartments (400 units) are for extremely low income residents at the old Tanle Talk Oies site next door to the ballpark. There won’t be thousands of new residents with disposable income. Instead it will be thousands of new residents who require expensive city services.

At least the billionaire ball team owners can get some chapeau labor. They win again.
Anonymous said…
The due diligence should have included asking questions about where people attending the game are going to park without disrupting the businesses in the Canal District. I don't know if it is too late to start to ask questions now but the City needs to devise a plan before any housing is built in the area.
Anonymous said…
The timing of your post in the context of the election season which we are in is impeccable.
Couple your post on the lack of due diligence with Mayor Mariano's commentary in the Telegram and the voters in the City need to wake up and hold the City Council responsible for their actions, or inactions in this case.
It seems like the movie Groundhog Day as a small business owner in the City. Each fall the City Council rings their hands with the tax classification hearing, pitting the residents against the businesses and in the end each side gets an increased real estate tax bill, it is just a matter of the size of the increase and no one asks how did we get to this point. We complain when we get our tax bill for about two weeks then we forget only to repeat the exercise the next year. For this we pay the City Council $30,000.00 a year with benefits.
This election the taxpayers should vote anticipating the upcoming tax classification and considering the performance of the City Council and the City Manager. Whether the issue be the continued deplorable condition of streets and sidewalks throughout the City, the continued problem of flooding or a ballpark that is 60% -70% over budget which most certainly will increase our tax bills if not this year in the next few years. Just like you can't pick up your home and move it to a town with a lower tax rate, I can't financially just close down and move to another town. I hope voters consider the candidates closely and vote based upon the candidates accomplishments, not just the fact that they recognize their name.
Anonymous said…
Being 9/11 I would first ask all to keep all those who lost their lives 20 years ago and those who lost their lives overseas since then, and their families, in your thoughts first and foremost. With that being most important thing I will say in this comment I would like to continue to comment on our federal, state and local governments. They use terms like investment without truly knowing the meaning. Investment does not mean spending our tax money on superfluous buildings like a ballpark but on educational facilities to educate our children and prepare them for the future in this ever changing world. This can be building new schools or simply retrofitting our existing schools to accommodate the thr new learning environment before us. The City needs to get their priorities straight, whether that be the City Council, the School Committee, the City Manager or the Superintendent. Those in leadership positions need to establish clear goals to move this City forward and hold those in a position to attain those goals accountable.
Anonymous said…
Due diligence after the fact is no diligence. Monies spent ,deals made , all while there was time to give the transparency they promised. Now its to late to stop most of the smoke and mirrors. Maybe they can limit the damage. But if thats what they wanted they could have stepped up a long time ago
Gary Samela said…
You seem to be very articulate, but I don't understand why you're making all these conclusions about a ballpark that has only been open for 5 months. It's probably going to take 3-5 years before we know what the economic impact of the stadium is.

Every city has old roads and pipes that need to be updated. The millions of new tax dollars these developments will create will help pay for those improvements. If you look at the latest census numbers, people are moving to Worcester in droves. Obviously, they don't share your opinions about Worcester.

Also, lower income people do purchase things. Maybe they don't pay $49 for a steak at 111, but they will eat at a more reasonable place. Maybe they drink bottled beer instead of wine. I'm getting the feeling that you look down on people that are less fortunate. Shame on you!!
Anonymous said…
Worcester, and the Canal District specifically, was and will continue to grow mostly because of geography ( its central location with great road and rail access) and it's lower housing costs compared to the Boston and 495 metro areas. As you point out, the City's population has grown since the last census ten years ago with numerous residential units being built throughout the City. This trend would have continued with or without the arrival of the WooSox. With regards to the mix of housing, market rate or mixed, I did not comment on the type in my previous comment but I will now. A City needs a mix of both, period.
With regards to my opinion that the construction of a ballpark is not a prudent investment, this statement is based upon the original $100 million construction budget's bond payments being supported by the new taxes derived from the Madison development. I was doubtful from the inception of the project based upon research I had done on minor league baseball ballparks and the proposed development which was planned to finance them. Most recent I call your attention to the capital City to our southwest. Their ballpark has been voted the #1 ballpark in their division, the team is doing well and the City of Hartford had to make the $3 million payment on the bonds they issued to construct the apprehension continued to grow as the project cost rose from $100 million to $130 million and the current estimate of $170 million. While the cost of the ballpark grew, the developer has downsized the number of hotel rooms and has announced that the construction of the left field office building will not commence until he has signed leases. This is a logical approach but with the availability of office space in the City, the new UNUM building and the recently acquired glass tower the likelihood of the development starting soon is highly unlikely and like Hartford the City will have bond payments to make with no revenue stream to make the payments from. Some may call me a pessimist, I believe I am just being pragmatic. I am Worcester born and bred and continue to wish for its continued success but from my vantage the $175 million eggs the City put into this one basket (ballpark) is not a prudent investment. I hope I am proven wrong but it is not heading in that direction.
Gary Samela said…
I think people are just going to have to be patient. There are going to be setbacks. The second hotel planned across from Union Station was propossed close to four years ago. The construction trailers just arrived on site about two weeks ago. Can the Canal District support 1,500 new apartments? Can the City come up with a reliable transportation network to connect all these destination points together? Will fans continue to crowd Polar Park once the novelty wears off? Just a lot of questions right now. It's going to be interesting to see this all plays out.
Anonymous said…
Patient bull shit. City financed on muni bonds saying it will not affect the tax payers. They also pulled eco development from more deserving areas, and The price has almost doubled and the tag on developments that were also part of the tax revenue used to pay back the borrowing are delayed , and many reduced in scope. So the shortfall will end up as the taxpayers burden. There should be investigations.
Anonymous said…
The City Council should request the City Auditor to update the review that he did back in 2018 to start.

I assume you have seen the story in the T&G that the WooSox attendance has exceeded 300,000 with 7 games left. Weather permitting I would speculate attendance will exceed 350,000. This is a complete turn around from their attendance in Pawtucket where they were last in attendance. This level has to be credited to baseball fans in Worcester and the surrounding towns, the novelty of a new stadium and the ability to get out from under the COVID lockdown. In any event I am sure the WooSox owners are glad they listened to Larry Lucchino to move the team to Worcester because this must be their most profitable year ever. Conservatively, If an average ticket price is $20 and the average per person concession purchase is $20, revenues would be $14 million, excluding merchandise sales. Add to that corporate sponsorships which I would estimate to be worth $5-$6 million and naming rights and other advertising which I would estimate in the amount of $5 million this equates to gross revenues of $25 million for 60 games. The value of their ownership interest must have increased dramatically. We can only hope the City's return follows suit, but considering where the promised development stands, I find it highly unlikely.
Anonymous said…
Gary- 5 year wait and see is fine if that was the plan. These adjacent projects have to be up already , generating tax income in order to meet the promise of the City Manager that the residents would not feel the burden of this “project”. Now its smoke and mirrors trying to say we are ok , while deep down that situation is dying on the vine.
Gary Samela said…
Consider the following:

-The City was subsidizing the old Worcester City Hospital to the tune of $11 million per year.
-The City was subsidizing Worcester Airport at $6 million per year
-It took 25 years for the first biotech park to be built out.
-It took 15 years for the Gateway Science Park to be built out.

Developers usually don't pay millions for land, hundreds of thousands for design plans, and thousands on permits just to not develop a project. No one could have perceived the pandemic that caused material costs to skyrocket. I don't know what's the big deal that the City might have to subsidize the park for a couple of years until the project across the street gets built out. There’s probably $10-15 million of fat that can be cut out of the general budget. You could get rid of five of the 12 Assistant Superintendents at the school department to save $1 million per year. Some other services can be privatized at a cost savings.

You don't mention the hundreds of jobs at the park that were created. This might be the first job for teenagers or elderly people looking to subsidize their social security benefits. Local businesses like Polar and Coney Island are making a killing selling their products at the park. You also to fail to mention that the City's garages and surface lots are realizing a bump in revenues as a result of game parking.

You refuse to tell us what your alternate plan is. Do you think it was best for the City to have two large, blighted lots just sitting there for the next 25 years? It just seems like your very closed minded. When all these developments come to fruition, you’re going to feel very foolish.
Gary Samela said…
Forgot to mention that the City is paying $575,000 per year of taxpayer money
to keep the systems and utilities on at the old Worcester Auditorium so the building doesn't cave in. There were plans to redevelop it, but the closure of Becker College put the end to that.
Anonymous said…
I can't comment on the hospital, but I remember when the City got out of the airport business because they realized they were not capable of running the airport professionally or financially and that appeared to be the driving reason, I would offer for your consideration being a landlord of a minor league baseball park is not in the City's core function or expertise and i wonder if they are repeating the mistakes of the past coupled with the fact that it has been stated that the ballpark would not cost taxpayers anything which is the underlying concern. The City venturing into activities they should not ultimately always seems to cost the taxpayers more on an overly burdening tax bill.

I looked quickly on the City's website and it appears both the Biotech Park and Gateway Park were both privately developed. I can't find if the City assisted in the development through what is their most common form, a TIF. In researching these two developments I was reminded of the current biotech expansion underway next to the original biotech park where the City is not directly participating.

Finally, with regards to the hundreds of SEASONAL partime, and presumably minimum wage jobs, I ask is that worth the investment of $175 million. A side note, I believe the additional parking revenues which you are describing are being redirected away from the parking system to pay for the bonds on the ballpark.

You touch on one of my concerns indirectly with your proposal with your proposed school department budget cuts. We pay the City Council, the School Committee, the City Manger and the Superintendent to deliver municipal services in an efficient cost effective manner. When they don't do their jobs, which appears to be the case in this instance it materializes in an ever increasing tax bill. I ask a simple question, if the City subsidizes the payment on the bonds for let's say the first five years, will the City give me a refund on these tax payments the next five years?
Anonymous said…
Gary, I just reread your comments and I will state you probably did more work and research to make your comments than the Worcester City Council and the City Manager did on this project. If you drive west and run for City Council you have a residential and commercial local for a lawn sign to run for City Council.
Anonymous said…
This is a great and civil discussion about important disagreements over how to view the city’ performance in managing a $175,000,000 spend of taxpayer dollars and how, or IF, we will ever recover it and what the collateral damage will be. I said “will” because it is a meter of when, not if.

We already see short term collateral damage to small canal district businesses that are not in the TIF club of insiders.

I’m. Wry concerned about the long term damage to the city from what increasingly appears to be inept handling of this situation. Just one example: a multi-million dollar mistake not knowing that expensive underground data and other infrastructure existed to support high tech businesses that were taken by eminent domain that a private developer would have known about just by seeing the signs on the doors of the businesses, let alone Dig Safe.

I’m not as confident as Gary is that this will all,pencilout wohtout long term fiscal pain to taxpayers. I legit hope that Gary is right and I am wrong.

It has been pointed out before that this critical discussion is happening only in a small, private ORH blog. That may be a larger issue as there will be more boondoggles unless that changes.
Gary Samela said…
I respect and enjoy your comments. Worcester needs a fiscal watchdog like
yourself now that Konnie Luke's is gone.
You remember when the city manager wrote a self-serving article saying the park was a huge success (three weeks after it opened)? Why do you think he felt a need to do so?
Anonymous said…
One will never know someone's motivation, but I will speculate it is to control the narrative. Post COVID, getting outdoors and seeing a ball game must be a great release for those who have been confined at home. That includes people working remotely, children who name have been isolated from their classmates, etc.. This is a short term benefit to those who chose to attend a game. For those of us who are dealing in trying to figure our way thru the "new normal" without attending a game, the ballpark provides no benefit.
Returning to your underlying question, why the article, I can't remember when exactly The Worcester Business Journal calculated the project cost but I believe it was roughly around this time and it was brought to light that the project was 60% over budget at that moment in time. Couple that with the fact that the garage being constructed was being schedule and the developer had not started construction on any of the development which the initial plan had as being completed by this moment in time and any person thinking objectively would call the project a train wreck waiting to happen.
The ball park appears to be a marvel, with the exception of the facade and the obstructed views down in the third base line boxes, but would you not expect that with a $160-175 million price tag?
The ball park was and continues to be portrayed as not costing us taxpayers any money. If that is not the case this will be a bait and switch and the motivation could be as simple as the ending of the wizard of oz. "Don't look behind that curtain"
Anonymous said…
The saddest part is that the city officials responsible for this giant spend that mortgages the city’s future will be long gone in their well feathered beds enjoying free health care forever while taking jobs far, far away from the ballpark.

Hopefully we don’t see these same officials with jobs at the WooSox or other recipients of giant tax breaks. Even I’m not that cynical.

Still unsure how we are supposed to support a $175,000,000 facility on $32,000 a year in rent. My barber pays more for that in Trent for 1000 sq feet in a sort of rundown part of the city that gets no TIFs..

I still can’t see why the manager calls this a a “good investment” but maybe he can unleash the info buried from public view so that the rest of us can u derstand.