LINCOLN — Before serving as the keynote speaker at last night’s Northern Rhode Island Chamber’s 25th annual dinner at the Twin River Event Center, Pawtucket Red Sox Chairman Larry Lucchino mentioned that a new feasibility study of McCoy Stadium, the current home of the Triple-A ballclub, has been discussed – albeit with a new twist.
Dressed in a grey suit and proudly wearing his 2004 World Series ring, Lucchino said that cost of the latest study would be shared with Rhode Island. That represents new ground for a franchise that’s spent the last several months putting any and all stadium relocation plans on the backburner and pouring every available resource into winning back a fan base that stayed away in droves from McCoy last season.
The PawSox conducted a similar study shortly after Lucchino, Jim Skeffington and a host of R.I. business leaders came aboard as owners a year ago this month. The exact findings of the study were never made public despite pleas from local and state politicians who clamored to know how much it would cost to upgrade McCoy, a facility that was opened in 1942.
“We said we needed between $50 and $65 million,” said Lucchino, who said the study is “an internal document” when asked if he would take the classified label off it. There is no definitive timetable as far as when the joint study with the state will commence or how long it will take.
“We’ve got to reach an agreement on a study and digest it for a few years,” said Lucchino, also the president/CEO emeritus of the Boston Red Sox. “It took us three years in Boston to decide what we wanted to do with Fenway Park. We didn’t make a decision until March 23, 2005 after four years of operation.”
Lucchino took the occasion to reaffirm that there’s nothing to report as far as a new stadium for the PawSox or whether the team is continuing to receive overtures from communities located within Rhode Island or in nearby Massachusetts.
“We are not affirmably looking for anything,” said Lucchino. “We are focused on McCoy and Pawtucket in the short term this year and trying to get this franchise back to the level where we think they should be at.”
Saying he was pleased with the opportunity to speak to a room full of local business leaders, Lucchino said last night was an opportunity for him “to sink my roots even deeper in Rhode Island.” He planned to talk about the reset button the PawSox have hit in the hopes of once again making a McCoy Stadium a popular destination.
“We’re definitely learning every day about Rhode Island and its idiosyncrasies and its politics and culture,” said Lucchino.
Lucchino laid out what he called four basic commitments of how the PawSox will operate moving forward. They include:
1). Create a comfortable, hospitable and high quality ballpark that’s second to none in Triple-A.
2). Construct on- and off-field teams worthy of the fan’s support, ones that will enable the team to provide affordable family entertainment.
3). To be fully engaged in the charitable and civic life of the surrounding community.
4). Create a Tier One Player Development machine for the Boston Red Sox.
Looking ahead to the 2016 campaign, Lucchino mentioned that 133 special events on the docket compared to 45 in 2015. The list of promotions range from the traditional fireworks and bobblehead giveaways to daily promotions that fall under the umbrella of creative titles such as “My Hero Mondays” and “TV Tuesdays.”
“We’re going to market this team aggressively and creatively. I think there’s a sense of optimism,” said Lucchino. “We’re taking a fresh look at the entertainment experience.”
Lucchino was asked to characterize his relationship with Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien. Lucchino singled out Grebien last November when the new front office structure was announced with the relationship climbing to even greater heights if you go by the joint letter that the pair issued last week.
“I think we have an excellent working relationship. He’s a very energetic elected official,” said Lucchino, adding that he’s dealt with Grebien quite a bit since last season ended.
“(The letter that was distributed to PawSox fans via email) seemed like a good idea that the world be aware of the collaborative working relationship that we were entering into with Mayor Grebien and the City Council.”
To that end, Lucchino said that he has met with several members of the Pawtucket City Council. “It’s more about general introductions and getting to know them.”
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03.