PAWTUCKET, R.I. — After hosting the Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox for half a century, McCoy Stadium would be razed to make way for a new Pawtucket High School campus, under a proposal approved by a subcommittee this week.
A subcommittee of school and city officials voted unanimously on Thursday night to recommend that the School Committee move forward with the concept of building a new 2,500-student high school that would consolidate two of the city’s existing high schools, Shea and Tolman, and possibly a third, the Jacqueline Walsh School for the Arts. The school would include Career Technical Education spaces.
The project would require tearing down McCoy, the 79-year-old city-owned stadium that the Pawtucket Red Sox called home for 50 years and that was site of baseball’s longest game, a 33-inning marathon in 1981. The PawSox left McCoy for Worcester and a shiny new stadium that opened in May, and since then, McCoy has remained vacant and moribund, with fading murals hanging on the walls and Canada geese fertilizing the outfield.
“This project would take advantage of a city-owned asset, turning the now sadly vacant McCoy Stadium site into a vibrant campus for learning, career exploration, athletics, and community activities,” Mayor Donald R. Grebien said in a statement. “This project is a priority for my administration and I thank the members of the ad hoc subcommittee for their work vetting and developing the concept to this point.”
The project would cost an estimated $302.5 million. The city would need to tap a previous school bond and ask the General Assembly to approve another school bond, which would then require approval by Pawtucket voters, spokesman Christopher Hunter said. The Rhode Island Department of Education would provide reimbursement for about 80 percent of the costs, he said.
If all goes smoothly, the new school would open in 2026, Hunter said. If the plan proceeds, the city would look at potentially selling William E. Tolman Senior High and analyzing options for repurposing Charles E. Shea Senior High, he said.
The Ad Hoc Subcommittee to Study High School Academic Complex has been meeting over the last four months, holding eight public meetings and working with school facilities consultant Colliers International and SLAM architects.
The subcommittee – with representatives from the School Committee, City Council, the mayor’s office, teachers, administrators – voted to recommend a 482,500-square-foot Pawtucket High School campus.
Subcommittee chairman Gerard “Jay” Charbonneau said he will soon present the recommendation to the full School Committee, calling it “a bold vision for the type of 21st century learning environment that our students deserve.”
“The Pawtucket High School campus concept would be the most modern high school learning environment in the state, with room for exciting new CTE career pathways, state-of-the-art classrooms, arts and performances spaces, athletics fields, and shared community spaces,” Charbonneau said.
City Councilman Terrence E. Mercer, a subcommittee member who represents the area around McCoy Stadium, said the proposal “would breathe new life into the area while providing our students with the 21st century learning environment they deserve.”
He said the subcommittee delved into the concept’s educational and financial feasibility, “and we collectively agree that this is a project the School Committee should seriously consider.” He said, “A new Pawtucket High School and CTE campus has the opportunity to be a shining example of our commitment to future generations of Pawtucket students.”
In an interview, Mercer said officials considered other options for McCoy, including making it the home of another minor league baseball team or a professional softball team, and constructing a new public safety complex there. But, he said, “Nothing seemed to take hold, and all those ideas required a considerable level of retrofitting and getting it up to snuff.”
So the subcommittee agreed that the best option was the Pawtucket High School campus concept.
“It’s bittersweet for me,” Mercer said. “I grew up a block from McCoy Stadium and have watched the PawSox since I was 6 years old. That was my personal playground.”
So he’d hate to see the old stadium demolished. And, he said, “I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Tolman guy. I played baseball and basketball there.”
But, Mercer said, “I think this will be good for the city and future generations of students.” He said he took part in a tour of the new $190 million East Providence High School. “It’s a brand new, state-of-the-art building,” he said. “I was astounded to see what could be.”
Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.