Polar Park Prepares for Triple-A Worcester Red Sox 2021 Opening Day
Heading for Home: Gilbane-Hunt Nears Completion on $130M Polar Park in New England’s Second Largest City
Construction of the new home for the Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox is on schedule in New England’s second largest city.
Work on Polar Park, the 6-acre residence for the Worcester Red Sox (formerly Pawtucket Red Sox) is in full swing under the construction management of joint venture Gilbane-Hunt. The ballpark, designed for year-round use, is the centerpiece of a $240 to $270 million redevelopment project on empty brownfields adjacent to the city’s renewed Canal District. The overall project comprises approximately 18 acres that includes private development by Madison Properties near the city’s Kelley Square.
The new stadium is designed to host 125 year-round events including baseball games, outdoor concerts, other sporting events, community meetings and functions, and as a potential polling location. Nicknamed by the fans as the WooSox, the team is expected to open the 2021 season at Polar Park.
The overall development surrounding the new stadium will include 250 market-rate apartments, two hotels totaling 250 rooms, a 96,000-square-foot office building, 65,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space plus a new 500-space parking garage.
The project also calls for infrastructure improvements to streets, sidewalks and lighting fixtures as well as spaces for parks and displays of public art. Overall, the project is creating hundreds of full-time and part-time jobs both in construction and non-construction positions.
Skanska and IFG serve as the owner’s project manager and Delano Associates LLC, serves as the team’s project manager. DAIQ is the architect; Gilbane-Hunt, serves as the construction manager at risk; and Walker Consultants has been selected to design the multi-level parking garage.
In support of the project, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will commit $35 million over the next two to three years for a new throughway for the ballpark and new market-rate housing through the Housing Development Incentive Program. MassWorks is funding the construction of the 500-space parking garage and other infrastructure and public improvements in support of investments being made in the Canal District. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is also working with the City to redesign and reconstruct Kelley Square, which is undergoing a complete overhaul. MassDOT lists Kelley Square as being among the top 10 worst automobile accident locations in the Commonwealth.
The total cost of the project was originally pegged at $100 million, but has been raised to roughly $130 million. The $30 million increase includes $9.4 million in construction costs for Polar Park and an additional $20 million for development costs. The team will pay the additional $9.4 million for the ballpark, with the City paying the increase in development costs.
The State has been involved in the negotiation for the relocation of the Boston Red Sox Triple-A affiliate. The total state contribution is more than $60 million. All funding will be used for infrastructure improvements around the ballpark including Kelley Square and the construction of the parking structure. No state funding will be used toward the design or construction of the ballpark.
City, state and federal officials together with executives from the Worcester Red Sox, Gilbane-Hunt, D’Agostino Izzo Quirk Associates (DAIQ), and Skanska USA Building Inc. as well as community leaders joined groundbreaking ceremonies on July 11. The event took place at an existing parking lot near the future left field foul pole.
Since August 2019, site work has been underway. The City of Worcester, project personnel, and Canal District merchants are working together to keep the Canal District accessible and open for business while construction activity takes place.
A major site work contract was awarded to W.L. French Excavating Corporation. Established in 1972, W. L. French is one of Greater Boston’s largest site excavation, environmental remediation and soil management firms. The company just completed constructing its new headquarters in North Billerica.
“W. L. French is proud and honored to be working with this exceptional team and city in the development of the Polar Park Stadium,” said President and CEO, Bill French Jr. “This park is going to be an integral part of the revitalization of downtown Worcester and will be enjoyed by families, including our own, for decades to come.”
For Polar Park, W. L. French is performing site demolition and mass excavation of more than 150,000 cubic yards of soil and disposing of nearly 118,000 tons of excess soil.
The 22-acre site is located between Madison Street and Washington, Summit, and Green Streets in Worcester. Much of the site was formerly occupied by surface parking lots and two recently demolished buildings. Two additional buildings located along Madison Street and one building located at 90 Washington Street were also demolished.
An existing below-grade-drainage conduit known as the Mill Brook Conduit traverses the site. The top of the conduit is located approximately 7 to 18 feet below ground surface. CSX railroad tracks are immediately adjacent to the site.
Earthwork to prepare the site for redevelopment requires excavation of soil from existing grades ranging from approximately 450 feet to 490 feet in elevation to accommodate a proposed lowest level floor elevation of approximately 456.5 feet and the playing field at approximate 458 feet.
W. L. French is also installing temporary shoring to support the CSX railroad as well as other existing site features needed to advance the ballpark and new building foundations.
Paced to Meet Milestones
Approximately 95,000 cubic yards of soil excavated from the site will be used as part of a concurrent project being developed by Madison Properties called South of Madison (SOMA). To meet the critical project milestones, the contractor is employing dozens of heavy equipment pieces – mostly Caterpillar pieces – to remove about 5,000 cubic yards from the ballpark site each day.
As of late March, the project has been progressing on schedule, with the front steel being raised on March 16 by Prime Steel Erecting Inc. near the park’s future third-base line.
Barring any unforeseeable circumstances, the new home for the WooSox is expected to be ready for Opening Day 2021.
High Hopes for the WooSox
The new Worcester Red Sox (WooSox) play in the North Division of the International League as the Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, succeeding the Pawtucket Red Sox. The WooSox will play its 70 home games at the newly constructed Polar Park, beginning in 2021.
Triple-A (Class AAA) is the highest level of play in Minor League Baseball in the United States and Mexico. A total of 30 teams play in the Triple-A International League (IL) and Pacific Coast League (PCL), with 14 teams in the IL and 16 in the PCL. The MLB-independent Mexican League fields 16 teams. Triple-A teams are typically located in large metropolitan areas that do not have Major League Baseball teams, such as San Antonio; Austin; Columbus; and Indianapolis.
Interleague play between the International League and Pacific Coast League occurs twice each season. In July, each league's All-Star team competes in the Triple-A All-Star Game. In September each league's regular season champions play each other in the Triple-A National Championship Game to determine an overall champion of Triple-A baseball.
The average attendance in the Triple-A International League is 6,590. With a new 10,000 seating ballpark and a strong fan base, Polar Park is expected to be one of the top performing ballparks in per game attendance in the country.