View story at wbjournal.com
By Thomas Grillo
Photo: Thomas Grillo
When the minor league baseball team Pawtucket Red Sox leave their Rhode Island home for Massachusetts for the 2021 season, their nickname will officially be WooSox.
It was standing room only in Mercantile Center lobby Monday night in Worcester as Red Sox fans joined team executives to eat hot dogs and Table Talk pies and learn the team’s nickname.
Even Worcester Red Sox President Charles Steinberg admitted the whole thing was anti-climatic.
“More than 1,000 people sent in 218 suggestions with names like the Rockets, the Dirt Dogs, the Gritty Kitties, and even one from Holy Cross, the Holy Sox, but what beats the WooSox?” he asked the crowd.
The answer came back a resounding “Nothing.”
With that, the team’s new logo of a smiley face in a baseball cap was unveiled to shouts of Woo, Woo, Woo.
The team already had established before Monday night that Worcester Red Sox would be its official name, Steinberg told WBJ after the event. The WooSox nickname will be used on second reference, similar to how PawSox is used as its nickname now, which differentiates it from its major league counterpart in Boston.
In November 2018, the Triple A minor league baseball affiliate launched an interactive promotion offering fans the chance to name the team after its move to a new $101-million municipal stadium in the Canal District. Team officials even went as far as saying the team might not choose to include Red Sox in the official name, although that turned out to not be the case.
At the naming announcement Monday, WooSox Chairman and Co-owner Larry Lucchino, 74, said he’s excited about the choice of Worcester for the team’s new stadium, which will be named Polar Park and be built by the City of Worcester. He said at least 18 cities made the pitch for the team, including Springfield and Weymouth.
“We are happy to find a place where we were really wanted,” he told the WBJ. “Worcester is the right place. They did it the right way with a spirit of collaboration that continues to this day.”
Former Boston Red Sox catcher Rich Gedman, 60, a Worcester native and graduate of St. Peter-Marian High School in Worcester, told the audience he was a thrill to be back in his hometown where so many of his early baseball memories were made.
Janet Marie Smith, who oversaw the $285-million renovation of Boston’s Fenway Park in 2012 and is now managing the $100-million renovation of Dodger Stadium for the Los Angeles Dodgers, said she worked with the architect to design Polar Park for Worcester’s Canal District.
“This site is bounded by the streets around it, and it has such a steep grade that it was tempting to flatten it and build up,” she said. “But we worked hard to keep the park unique by working with the environment we found.”
The City of Worcester borrowed $101 million to build the stadium, and the team will pay back $36 million of that in an upfront payment and an annual lease payment over 30 years.