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In Pawtucket, RI there is a soon-to-be available sports stadium surrounded by a friendly neighborhood which represents an incredible opportunity for business and growth just waiting for the right party. Since 1973, the stadium, with a capacity of over 10,000 people has been home to minor league baseball, Rhode Island Interscholastic Sports, and tons of charity events that raised money for cancer, AIDS, and other local charities. This stadium has plenty of parking. It is easy to get to from Route 95 North and South, Route 195, and a wide range of local streets. The stadium is called McCoy Stadium.
In years past, I have traveled to McCoy Stadium to watch baseball games. My favorite professional baseball team has a minor league affiliate set up in Pawtucket and has since I was born. All of my sons, my wife, my parents, my brother and his family, my sister and her family, and most if not all of my friends have also been to McCoy Stadium at some point in their lives to watch a minor league baseball game. It was a destination for us, coming mostly from Southern RI, taking us away from the beaches and into the world of professional baseball. I have a friend who lives in Los Angeles who comes to RI every summer and usually goes to at least one game at McCoy Stadium. Again, it is a destination that is rich in tradition for most Rhode Island baseball fans, whether you travel from Providence or Westerly. The inexpensive price of admission, the ease of parking, the incredible play on the field, the wonderful family atmosphere throughout the stadium, the roar of the crowd on a basehit, the opportunity to be so close to a potential Major League baseball player are just some of the reasons why it was a no-brainer to go to McCoy Stadium every year.
Professional baseball is a business. The executives of professional baseball teams are not in the business of making decisions based on emotion or loyalty or fans griping or disappointed politicians. They base important decisions on statistics like attendance for home games, profit and loss, state and local tax relief, marketability of the surrounding area, and ultimately crunch numbers for months if not years to make decisions which are in the best interest of the franchise. Team loyalty from fans like myself who have been going to McCoy Stadium for over 40 years are not a quantifiable statistic. Attendance numbers are raw data because they equate to profit and loss; after you factor in food and beverage sales, payroll, parking fees, T-shirts and posters sold, and so on. In the end, the management team of this particular minor league affiliate felt that another city, another stadium, another location would be more profitable than Pawtucket, RI and McCoy Stadium. It’s not personal, it’s just business.
So after reading that this particular minor league affiliate has decided to relocate to another city in New England, I thought it would be a great exercise to get the ball rolling on recruiting the next potential owner and/or potential tenant of McCoy Stadium. First, I believe that the next ownership group should be led by a native Rhode Islander. Someone who understands the value of a great family friendly, inexpensive evening out in the spring and summer months. Someone who him or herself attended these minor league games with their parents, and now their children or even grandchildren. Second, modern antique ball parks are definitely more appealing than some made-up, overly priced, overly fancy baseball stadium. Yes, you want to be entertained but the play on the field is the main attraction, not the 200 foot Jumbo-Tron or some other unnecessary eye candy inside the stadium. McCoy Stadium is a modern antique treasure of a ball park with an amazing view from every single seat in the stadium. Three, the new owner must be open to expand on the multi-use concept of other successful sports stadiums. Hold regional soccer tournaments, statewide lacrosse championships, college and high school football games in the fall, and minor league hockey games in the winter, as well as continue to host those important charity events. You may not sell out every game, but you would continue to keep Rhode Island sports fans walking in the door, not just in one or two seasons, but every season – buying a hot dog, a beer (or two but not three), T-shirts, etc. Over time, the attendance numbers may start to climb back to where they were in the mid 2000’s, when McCoy Stadium averaged about 9,000 fans a game. And you can address another professional baseball team’s needs or perhaps recruit a collegiate baseball league team to Pawtucket for the summer.
McCoy Stadium will be vacant for minor league baseball in 2021. So, let’s start planning now and stop crying in our cute little Pawtucket Helmets, which used to have delicious soft serve chocolate ice cream in it. Rinse that helmet out and put it on the shelf. Let’s get the next big thing to hit Pawtucket, RI up to the plate. I know that McCoy Stadium will make a great fit for a Rhode Island native, someone who loves sports, believes in family values, cherishes a night out with family and friends at an affordable rate, and a visionary who can take an empty stadium and fill it with screaming, loyal sports fans. You are out there. Let’s hear from you!!!