Policy

$100 Million for a Minor League Ballpark?! 

|

To clear space for a new minor league baseball stadium, the city of Worcester, Massachusetts, is using eminent domain to condemn and seize two successful businesses. City officials then plan to put Worcester's remaining taxpayers on the hook for more than $100 million to build the ballpark and do some adjacent redevelopment. It's hard to say which part of the plan is worse: stealing private land or wasting public dollars.

Worcester initially tried to buy out the owners of an auto glass repair shop and a cannabidiol retailer, but the businesses turned down offers of $310,000 and $265,000 respectively, according to court documents. When the property holders refused, Worcester officials resorted to eminent domain to get their way.

The city council approved the takings in April—booting out the businesses despite their owners' objections—and a groundbreaking for the city-owned stadium project went ahead in July. But the eminent domain effort could take months to finalize in court—and that could force the city to delay the opening of the new stadium, planned for spring 2021.

The ballpark will be the new home for the Boston Red Sox's top minor league affiliate. The team is relocating from Pawtucket, Rhode Island, where it has played since 1970, after spurning an offer from Rhode Island officials to use a measly $38 million in public funds to upgrade the 76-year-old stadium where the team currently plays. Instead, the "Woo Sox," as local media have taken to calling them, will get a shiny new ballpark, and Worcester taxpayers will get a pile of debt.

The $70 million public cost for the stadium makes the new Worcester ballpark one of the five most expensive minor league projects in American history, according to Victor Matheson, a sports economist at the College of the Holy Cross, which is also in Worcester. And that price tag doesn't include another $30 million in public spending on stadium-adjacent projects, including a city-owned hotel, or the additional $34 million the team will pay toward the stadium's cost.

When the Worcester Business Journal surveyed 10 experts about the viability of the city's plan, nine of them expressed skepticism that the ballpark would pay for itself. The only dissenter was a Smith College economist hired by the city to make the case for the project.

The stadium might spruce up the downtown, Matheson says, but the math doesn't add up. "Is this going to make the city of Worcester richer? There's no reason to think that it will."

NEXT: Can States Eliminate the Insanity Defense?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I am making $92 an hour working from home. i was greatly surprised at the same time as my neighbour advised me she changed into averaging $ninety five however I see the way it works now. I experience masses freedom now that i’m my non-public boss. that is what I do…… http://www.works55.com
    🙂 AND GOOD LUCK.:)

  2. $30 million in public spending on stadium-adjacent projects, including a city-owned hotel
    Are they including city owned grocery and home improvement stores?

    1. Maybe an auto glass repair shop and CBD retailer to replace the ones they just lost.

  3. Great idea. Now the neighborhood will be littered with windowless cars, and the local junkies will have to go back to illegal buys in the back alleys.
    Less tax revenue, more debt. Sounds like New England.

    1. Then the blight will have been confirmed and the condemnation justified. Prediction is so much easier with government.

  4. When private investors refuse to pay for things the government think necessary and proper, this is an obvious market failure. When you refuse to do what’s for your own good, government must force you to do what’s in your own best interest.

    1. Sarcasm for you, “rational” thought for a politician.

    2. It’s one thing for a sewage plant or electricity for an outlying farm. It’s an entirely another thing to do so for something so trivial as sports.

  5. The ballpark will be the new home for the Boston Red Sox’s top minor league affiliate. The team is relocating from Pawtucket, Rhode Island

    This is MLB’s anti-trust exemption in action. They can then use relocation as a threat to extort money from munis/taxpayers who understand that if they don’t go along, there is no alternative baseball team/league that will play there.

    There is value in muni-owned land used for public recreation/entertainment. Sports venues are similar to public parks in that respect. Place to take your kids – which means better place to live – which means better place for employers to know that they can have a stable workforce there. Particularly important for a small town.

    Elim that anti-trust exemption and charter a sports governing body – and baseball/basketball (maybe football but I doubt it now cuz the concussion liability issue) leagues will sprout up everywhere. Similar to soccer elsewhere. Germany has 30,000+ league teams (170,000 subleague) playing for 25,000 clubs (the facilities function which incl stadiums). There is no threat of relocation. The opposite. Facilities are everywhere – but they cost $5 million not $100+ million. And those are one reason the mittelstand are so significant in driving economic growth there.

  6. From Worcester. Have been told that there are not even close to the number of parking spaces needed for game attendees. Nor is there parking nearby in any real capacity. The entire traffic pattern of the area, Kelley Square (
    notorious for gridlock) will be “redesigned” (made smaller for traffic), and the local highway, necessary to reach the stadium, is already inadequate to the task – Route 290 is bumper-to-bumper from 3pm daily. This is going to be one of the worst things to happen to the city – and there have plenty of clusterf**ks in Worcester city planning.

    1. they don’t wan’t you to drive. next up, zero mph road diets, downtown city owned condos so yuppies can walk to the games, downtown city owned microbrew pubs. when all that doesn’t work and the city is broke, petition President Warren for a federal light rail project for 20 billion.

    2. Families with kids will bicycle from all over New England to see games there!
      /s

  7. because there is no baseball withing hundreds of miles nearby…you know besides the sox…and the mets…and the yankees…and the phillies…

  8. “It’s hard to say which part of the plan is worse: stealing private land or wasting public dollars.”

    I’m gonna go with stealing private land. Only because, as far as I can tell, government’s main purpose is to waste public dollars. Thus, this would be par for the course in that regard.

  9. “”The only dissenter was a Smith College economist hired by the city to make the case for the project.””

    Really?

  10. “The $70 million public cost for the stadium makes the new Worcester ballpark one of the five most expensive minor league projects in American history …”

    No doubt this is just another wealth destroyer, but ….

    1. Is this in constant dollars?
    2. Are we really comparing this project to those built in 1910? Or 1935? Not only is everything more expensive, but contemporary projects include goodies not imagined in the past. So ‘history’ is hardly the appropriate measure.

  11. Every publicly financed stadium deal has been a disaster, with taxpayers lining the pockets of billionaire owners. If it were such a great revenue generator the owners would pay for it themselves. Local politicians are the absolute worst

  12. Great article and comments all around. Peerless site. Well Stated. https://www.customcarorlando.com

  13. I don’t know which is funnier*: The closing of a windshield shop to replace it with a ballpark which will actually cause broken windshields? Or the idea this will only cost the stated amounts, when Mass. is notorious for 100%+ cost overruns on every public project in the past 75 years.
    *Funny as in so sad you cry until you laugh with despair.

Please to post comments