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PawSox make tracks to Providence

Leaving Pawtucket behind, triple-A baseball team to provide new attraction for Providence

In two years, the Pawtucket Red Sox — or the PawSox, as they are affectionately known — will be no more.

Boston Red Sox President Larry Lucchino and a group of local investors purchased the Triple-A Red Sox affiliate Monday from Madeleine Mondor, widow of the late Ben Mondor. The sale was north of $20 million, the Boston Globe reported. A proposed location switch will change the team’s nickname from the PawSox , and lawyer Jim Skeffington — the club’s new president — told the Globe he wants to rename the team the Rhode Island Red Sox.

Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien said in an interview on WPRO that he was informed of the plans for the team to leave the city Sunday evening and expressed sorrow at the proposed move.

Plans for the new ownership include moving the team to Providence — away from its Pawtucket home, where the minor league team has been situated since 1970.

“We’re trying to do our due diligence on a possible site in the city,” Skeffington said. “We’re aiming to make an announcement regarding the potential site in two to three weeks.”

The potential site is located in downtown Providence near the Providence River, Skeffington said. Part of the land on which the new ownership group plans to build the ballpark is owned by Brown, Skeffington added, acknowledging that the owners must reach out to the University in an effort to purchase it.

“Brown University congratulates Jim Skeffington, Larry Lucchino and their partners on their successful acquisition of the Pawtucket Red Sox and applauds their desire to keep this important Rhode Island institution in our state,” wrote Russell Carey ’91 MA’06, executive vice president for planning and policy, in an email to The Herald. “The proposed location of a Providence home for the team is in an area of the capital city where Brown has invested significant financial resources.”

Skeffington said he believes the site will be a “game changer” for Providence, attracting a lot of people to the city.

“We’re planning on building a multipurpose ballpark,” Skeffington said. “The skyline will be lit up for maybe 100 days a year. We will have 71 home games, and we want to stage other events there.”

The proposed 10,000-seat ballpark could be home not only to the PawSox but also to college athletes, musicians and local performers. For example, it could host concerts and other performances such as Shakespeare in the Park, Skeffington added. “We plan to make use of it just like Fenway Park.”

“We welcome the prospect of a multi-use athletic, cultural and community facility, including the prospect of college athletics played in a new stadium, as a positive contributor to this environment and believe it will complement our academic investments in the area,” Carey wrote.

Luchino, who previously oversaw Fenway renovations and the construction of Petco Park in San Diego and Camden Yards in Baltimore, would be responsible for the construction of the new site, the Globe reported.

The construction of similar Triple-A stadiums has cost between $60 to $70 million dollars, and this kind of pricetag will require some local and state financial support, Skeffington said in the Globe article.

“We’re not even concerned about that right now,” Skeffington said. “We have to first finally decide on a site, and then we have to design the ballpark and see how that checks out.”

But locals have already expressed concern about building the ballpark in the city. One comment on the Providence Journal article regarding the move questions why Rhode Island taxpayers should “pay for another stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox when we have the ‘renovated’ stadium with plenty of parking.” Another comment reads “don’t use MY hard-earned money to fund a new stadium when an adequate one exists.”

Skeffington added that he wants to make the ballpark like McCoy Stadium — the PawSox’s current stadium — but  that its new location in Providence would be an important factor. The most recent renovations to McCoy, in 1999, made the ballpark handicap accessible and increased the seating capacity to over 10,000.

Former PawSox and Red Sox player Lou Merloni said in the same Globe article that “it kind of hurts to think they would even move it,” but added that he “understands why they’re doing it. This is the age of improvements, and I think people will be pleased if they do move that stadium.”

“The Boston Red Sox have enjoyed a productive relationship with the Pawtucket Red Sox for more than four decades,” Lucchino said in a statement on the PawSox’s website. “The franchise has played key roles in the Red Sox’ historic success, both as a player-development affiliate and as a Rhode Island home for affordable family entertainment.”

“We seek to enhance those roles and to honor the substantial contributions that Ben Mondor and his loyal team have made to this community for generations,” the statement reads.

Whether that Rhode Island community will be a little closer to the Providence River remains to be seen.

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