By Melissa Hanson
When Larry Lucchino was growing up in Pittsburgh, he was able to see the city’s balance of civic pride and civic inferiority.
“I grew up in Pittsburgh, not Fitchburg, but Pittsburgh,” the Pawtucket Red Sox chairman said with a laugh during a sit-down interview earlier this month with MassLive. “Pittsburgh has this combination of civic pride and civic inferiority complex, but I think the pride outweighs the civic inferiority complex.”
And since he’s been observing Worcester, Lucchino said he can see that the people who live here have a similar sense of admiration for their community.
“That same sense of civic pride is present in Worcester and the business community feels it and the public at large feels it and every sector of the community seems to feel it for different reasons,” he said. “I am really pleased to sort of plug our team into that network.”
The PawSox are moving to Worcester come 2021, bringing Triple-A baseball to the city as the center of an 18-acre, $240 million redevelopment plan that will transform the Canal District.
The plan includes a 10,000-person capacity stadium, estimated to cost between $86 and $90 million, as well as a 150-room hotel; a 100-room boutique hotel overlooking the ballpark; at least 225 market rate apartments; and 65,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.
Additionally, MassDOT will oversee a complete reconstruction of the notorious Kelley Square intersection, the state’s top crash location.
During the early stages of the negotiation process, Lucchino and the team was worried about leaving a business area that was not just Pawtucket, but also Providence. There was a concern that Worcester might not have the same sizable business community.
“What we saw was really inspiring. I really mean that,” Lucchino said. “People who care about their city, business leaders who feel a sense of civic responsibility, people that want their city, as well as their business, to grow.”
It was a key factor in the decision, Lucchino said.
Some pride for Lucchino and his team will be using the baseball project to spark other improvements in Worcester.
For example, the reconstruction of Kelley Square is happening at an accelerated pace, slated to reach completion just before the start of the 2021 baseball season.
“I’ve always found it a combination of charming and dangerous,” Lucchino said of Kelley Square.
“I think that’s an example of how we can help accelerate downtown development and growth because we have certain needs that can be tied together with other civic needs and greater progress can be made,” he added.
Worcester’s pride extends to its symbols, too.
PawSox President Charles Steinberg, like Lucchino, saw pride in Worcester. He also saw passion and poise, he said. A multi-cultural city of inventors and collaborators.
“I love the ubiquity of the heart and the expression the ‘heart of the commonwealth,’” said Steinberg. “I love that that was established on Feb. 29, 1848, and it translates today visually in the city, also spiritually in the city, because that resonates with baseball beautifully. Baseball is all about heart.”