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Leaders Make the Case for PawSox to Stay in Pawtucket

Saturday, January 10, 2015


Could the PawSox say goodbye to Pawtucket under new ownership?

Could the PawSox...become the FoxSox?

Speculation has been mounting that the Pawtucket Red Sox could move from the city if it is sold, following a recent Boston Globe article that said members of Red Sox ownership were in negotations to buy its AAA affiliate.

Now support is mounting from city and local sports industry leaders to make a case for keeping the 2014 league champions at McCoy stadium, which it has called home for over 40 years.  

"Let's assume the sale takes place.  This upcoming season would still happen, and I'm sure we'd do something," said Tony Pires, Director of Administration with the City of Pawtucket, who helped orchestrate $17 million in renovations at McCoy in 1999.  "To use a baseball analogy, we're in pre-game warm ups right now. We're not even in the batter's box, and we don't know yet who we're even playing," of who could buy the PawSox -- and what their intentions might be.  

Pawtucket recently extended its lease on McCoy Stadium in March 2014 to the State of Rhode Island, who subleases the balkpark to the PawSox, through 2021, with an option for a five-year extension. 

PawSox by the Numbers

The Pawtucket Red Sox have been a Red Sox affiliate since 1970, and according to baseball statistician David Kronheim, the PawSox have seen the "most amazing" increase in attendance among minor league teams that date back to 1974.   

According to stats compiled by the Kronhiem, attendance at McCoy topped 500,000 in 2014 for 16 straight years -- only Louisville, Columbus, Buffalo, and Indianapolis have longer streaks.  Since 1984, attendance is up 316,879, and the PawSox had the "most amazing increase" in attendance among teams that go back to 1974, with attendance up 435,397 in the 40 year span.  

Writes Kronheim, "This team was bankrupt 38 years ago, and couldn’t draw 100,000. The PawSox have achieved incredible attendance growth since then, and continue to rank among the annual attendance leaders. They play at McCoy Stadium, which is over 70 years old. While this park may not have all the amenities of newer facilities, the team provides many fan friendly features such as free parking. The Pawsox Radio Network has 13 stations."

"Anytime you can draw in on average 7500 people for games, it brings brings value to the state," said John Gibbons, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Sports Commission.  "That type of business doesn't necessarily draw in hotel use, but I know those facilities nearby do well when the PawSox play, and I know they bring in tax dollars every night with the sales at the park."

"The teams that come stay in hotels though, and every team that comes stays, so on average, you have a couple a thousand hotel room nights through the season, and all star games -- that's additional revenue," continued Gibbons.  "It just brings people into Rhode Island on a regular basis. I has an impact like a P-Bruins, but the PawSox have more impact as they have more games."

According to the recent Providence Business News Book of Lists, the PawSox ranks as the state's fifth biggest attraction as measured visitors, behind Twin River, Waterfire, Newport Grand and the Newport Mansions.

Where Could it Go

If the PawSox were sold, the speculation swirls around where that might be.

"I've heard Foxboro," said Providence City Council President Luis Aponte.  "The PawSox go way beyond the borders of Pawtucket -- it's been a Rhode Island institution of decades.  I can't imagine how devastating that would be to the city of Pawtucket and its economy.  We stand in Providence to be of help any way we can, and know Governor Raimondo is taking it seriously."

"I've heard New Bedford, Fall River, Worcester...even Providence has been broached before," said Gibbons.  "I've heard Providence tossed out before as well.   We have the ideal situation where we have the minor league team next to its major league [team], and most of our people are Sox fans, but nothing's to say that another triple A franchise couldn't move in here.  We'd like the Sox affiliation, but don't forget, the PawSox came from Louisville."

Pawtucket's Pires warned about too much speculation at this stage.

"Anybody who pretends to know about how to retain a franchise, be wary," said Pires.  "This administration knows that the current owner management and brand has been family entertainment, and it's been relatively inexpensive, and that's what we keep in mind. It comes down to if there is new ownership, what's their long term goal.  They're not necessarily buying bricks and mortar -- they're buying a brand."


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