PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) – Could the PawSox really leave Rhode Island?
City officials in Worcester are expected to make a significant announcement on Friday regarding the future of the PawSox, a person with direct knowledge tells Eyewitness News reporter Ted Nesi.
Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien’s office said Rhode Island officials remain in active talks with the team and are still hopeful the minor-league club will remain in Pawtucket.
“City officials and consultants have been in regular contact with PawSox leadership and consultants, as recently as last night and today, discussing the finer points of the financing and ballpark plans here in Rhode Island,” Dylan Zelazo, Grebien’s chief of staff, said in a statement. “At no time has there been any indication of a plan to move to Worcester or a suggestion of an announcement.”
“The PawSox leadership is currently weighing their options and the City of Pawtucket is as committed today to our partnership as we have ever been throughout this franchise’s storied 42-year history in Pawtucket,” he added.
The future of the PawSox has been a source of near-constant debate in Rhode Island since February 2015, when a new ownership group purchased the team from the widow of beloved longtime owner Ben Mondor. The group initially pushed a plan to move the team to Providence, but backed off in the face of public pressure.
After strongly supporting the Providence plan, Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello emerged as the biggest skeptic among Rhode Island leaders about helping to fund a new $83-million ballpark in Pawtucket. In June, however, he agreed to pass a reworked financing plan.
Senate leaders – who had been stronger supporters of the Pawtucket stadium plan than Mattiello – agreed to pass Mattiello’s framework, but warned at the time that it might not pass muster with the team, which by then had been in talks with Worcester for an extended period of time.
The expected Worcester announcement was first reported by multiple news outlets in the Central Massachusetts city, though few details were offered. It’s unclear whether this would be official news that the team is leaving, or just the outline of how Worcester would help pay for a new stadium there.
A PawSox spokesman said the team had no announcement as of Thursday afternoon and declined to comment on the Worcester reports.
Officials in Rhode Island appeared to be in the dark, saying they had not received any indication about the team’s plans or what if any news is coming Friday.
A Facebook post by a local restaurant suggested the Worcester Chamber of Commerce will hold an event there Friday to celebrate the PawSox coming to the city, but a spokesperson for the chamber said the post “is not accurate.”
“Any announcement would be made from the city or the PawSox organization,” she said.