The construction freeze at Polar Park, the anticipated new home of the Triple A Worcester Red Sox, is about to thaw.
Worcester city manager Ed Augustus announced Monday that some city construction projects would be allowed to resume for the first time since they were put on hold the first week of April because of the coronavirus pandemic. As part of that resumption, the city is preparing to restart construction on Polar Park as soon as Monday..
“We are pleased at the city manager’s news, not only for WooSox fans and those looking forward to Polar Park, but because it is a step forward in the community’s recovery from this striking scourge,” team principal owner and chairman Larry Lucchino said in a statement.
Even with the resumption of construction, the additional safety protocols during the pandemic will affect the time and budget of the building schedule, though a fuller sense of that impact won’t be known until at least June. The original plan was for the team to move into its new city and new ballpark in April 2021.
“While we look forward to resuming the construction of Worcester’s new ballpark, we recognize that precautions, health, and safety remain paramount,” Lucchino said. “We will support our local construction workers, and we will abide by the conditions set forth by our leaders to ensure an environment that complies with their public policy and expert medical recommendations.
"We will save an assessment of the delay and the adverse impacts for another day.”
Prior to the shutdown, the team acknowledged that the timetable to complete park construction already was tight. Even assuming no further delays, the combination of the seven-week hiatus and the additional safety protocols only add to the challenge.
If construction on Polar Park is not completed in time for the 2021 season, it remains to be seen how the team would proceed. Assuming that the season starts next April, uncertainty will require the team, the city, and the joint venture to examine contingencies. One possibility is a phased opening while construction is finished.
Alternately, while the 2020 season had been scheduled to be the final one for the Red Sox’ Triple A affiliate at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, R.I., that city’s mayor, Donald Grebien, has expressed a willingness to consider extending the team’s lease into the start of 2021 should Polar Park not be ready.