Can McCoy Stadium Be Saved?
On September 3, the city of Pawtucket held “The Final Inning” at McCoy Stadium, an event to give fans one last chance to visit the old ballpark before it is knocked down to make way for a new high school. The event featured food trucks, live music, and family activities throughout the day. As part of the Pawtucket Arts Festival, the day concluded with fireworks, which were a Labor Day tradition at the ballpark. About 3,000 people attended the party, reminiscing, sharing stories, and snapping photos.
Sounds like a great way to say goodbye to a local institution, doesn’t it? But wait, there’s a twist in this tale.
Billionaire real estate scion Stefan Soloviev has come forward to express his interest in buying and fixing McCoy Stadium. Soloviev is the chairman of the Soloviev Group and is worth $2.3 billion, per Forbes. He is the son of real estate tycoon Sheldon Solov, who passed away in 2020. Soloviev, who attended the University of Rhode Island, became interested in the property through his son Quentin.
“I’m hopefully optimistic that I can pull this off,” he said. “It’s up to the people of Rhode Island at the end of the day, but on my end, I think I can take care of it.”
Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien has publicly stated that saving McCoy Stadium is “off the table” because city voters overwhelmingly approved a $300 million bond measure to demolish the stadium to make way for a new high school. Pawtucket’s two high schools, William E. Tolman and Charles E. Shea were built in 1926 and 1938, respectively.
In this writer’s opinion, Mr. Soloviev would be better served spending his money elsewhere. This may be a surprising opinion from someone who wrote “I Never Got To Say Goodbye.” However, times change, attitudes change, and opinions change. McCoy Stadium has been sitting idle, with little to no maintenance or upkeep, since 2019. A study done while it was still a functional ballpark estimated it would take upwards of $68 million to modernize and renovate the facility. That price has only gone up since then.
In addition, affiliated minor league baseball will not be coming back to Pawtucket. Under MiLB’s territorial rules, Pawtucket (and neighboring Providence) fall under the territory of the Worcester Red Sox, since Worcester County and Providence County abut. No new team could relocate to McCoy Stadium without WooSox’ approval. That’s just not going to happen.
That leaves independent ball or summer college ball as the only viable options. The New England League and Futures League both operate in the area, but neither of them could adequately fill a 10,000-seat ballpark. Two Indy Leagues, the Atlantic and Frontier Leagues, have footprints that could easily reach Rhode Island, but again, a 10,000-seat dinosaur of a park is just too big for those circuits. Soloviev believes he could get an independent team to move to McCoy.
Soloviev has reportedly offered the city $1 million more than the appraised value of McCoy Stadium. Local baseball fans, including the grandniece of former Pawtucket Mayor Thomas P. McCoy (the stadium’s namesake), have launched online petitions, one of which is approaching 3,000 signatures. McCoy made her latest plea before the city council on September 6.
In this author’s opinion, if Mr. Soloviev wants to sink millions of dollars into a Rhode Island ballpark, he’d be better served to build a new 5,000-seat park in Providence with all the modern amenities teams ask for today. The price tag would be similar. Also, the city of Pawtucket could use a modern High School to replace its two century-old buildings. Renovating McCoy Stadium is unlikely to attract a new team, and even less likely to host one that is successful.
As much as McCoy is beloved in Rhode Island, it’s time to let go.