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A PawSox Move Proposed To The Riverfront In Chicopee

City of Chicopee

    Another pitch is being made to lure the Red Sox’s top minor league team to western Massachusetts.

    The Pawtucket Red Sox may be looking for a new home, and a city council candidate in Chicopee believes he has the perfect spot where a brand new riverfront stadium could be built for the team to relocate.

    " Chicopee is the perfect site," said Joel McAuliffe. " We have 26 acres of city-owned land that could be used for this purpose."

    The land he is talking about is the former Uniroyal tire factory – a complex of 10 buildings that sit vacant and forlorn along the banks of the Chicopee River.

    But before a ballpark, or anything else, could be built there an estimated $7-$10 million in demolition and cleanup work has to be done. 

   " My position is we should absolutely entertain the idea, get a seat at the table and then figure this out," said McAuliffe. " If we don't express the interest ( the PawSox) are never going to know Chicopee could have been a potential site."

    McAuliffe, who worked for three years as an aid to Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos and is now district director for Democratic State Senator Eric Lesser, said he’s taken a step to put Chicopee on the PawSox’s radar.

    " I've reached out directly to the chairman of the PawSox Larry Lucchino to let know the city of Chicopee would be a good site and encouraged him to reach out to Mayor Kos," McAuliffe said.

    In response to McAuliffe’s pitch, Mayor Kos was cautious, issuing a statement that read: “The Mayor’s office and the City Council would explore all viable options.”

   A decade-old study proposed redeveloping the Uniroyal and adjacent Facemate textile mill property as recreational sites.  The Facemate property was later cleaned up and a new senior center built there.

  In 2015, Mayor Kos suggested the Uniroyal site could be considered for a new Catholic high school.

       The diocese ultimately chose to build Pope Francis High School in Springfield.

  The Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox wants a new 10,000-seat ballpark to replace McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, where the team has played since 1970.  The current lease is up in 2021. Team officials said they would begin listening to offers from other cities on July 1st, as a deadline to conclude a deal on a publicly-finance stadium in Rhode Island expired.

  The team is not commenting on what, if any, offers have been received.

  Two years ago, when the PawSox made noise about possibility leaving Rhode Island Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno spoke with team brass.  Sarno was very cautious when asked, a couple of weeks ago, about the idea of luring the team to Springfield.

" I would love to have ( the PawSox), but I have to be respectful of taxpayer dollars and it would have to be a deal that worked mainly on the private-investment side," said Sarno.

  Worcester has also reportedly expressed interest in the PawSox.

  One potential obstacle to bringing the PawSox to western Massachusetts could be the Hartford Yard Goats.  Minor league teams have home territorial rights defined as the county where the team exists plus 15 miles.

  Hartford County abuts the Massachusetts state line just a few miles from Springfield.

McAuliffe believes Chicopee is beyond the 15-mile territorial boundary.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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