While COVID-19 has halted sporting events across the world, it’s also thrown a wrench in franchises’ future plans. The Boston Red Sox’ triple-A affiliate was in the midst of relocating from Pawtucket, Rhode Island to Worcester, Massachusetts when the pandemic struck. COVID-19 has led to construction delays of the new stadium in Worcester, Polar Park, and left plans for the 2021 season in flux. Now, a group of Eastern Connecticut State University students are working to make sure that, during an uncertain time for their team and sports in general, the WooSox have their priorities straight.
During this fall’s Pioneer Institute & Nichols College Sports Management Policy College Case Competition, Nikita Biahliak, James Callaghan, and Keira Integlia won 2nd place for a policy proposal discussing how to maintain the viability and timeliness of Polar Park’s construction during COVID-19.
Notably, most of the group’s recommendations don’t center on baseball-related activities. In particular, the students suggest that the park’s owners host community events and invest in transportation infrastructure near the stadium to encourage economic activity. The students go on to explore the possibilities for business partnerships between Polar Park and nearby restaurants, sporting goods stores, and universities, including targeted efforts to attract specific populations to games like senior citizens and students.
The judges praised the team’s work connecting the park’s success to buy-in from the broader community, which was particularly pertinent feedback coming from Ryan Meagher, Season Ticket Sales Manager at the Worcester Red Sox. The competition’s other judges included Dave Peterson, General Manager of the Worcester Bravehearts, Ellen Roy Herzfelder, former Massachusetts Secretary of Environmental Affairs and current member of the Pioneer Institute Board of Directors, and John T. Peculis, Senior Vice President of Commercial Lending at Fidelity Cooperative Bank.
One of the Eastern Connecticut State University team’s more creative proposals is to implement a bikeshare program in Worcester, which they suggest could increase access to Polar Park, boost revenue for businesses in the city’s Canal District, and even improve public health. They then discuss opportunities to improve public transit near the stadium, including the creation of a shuttle service that connects Worcester Polytechnic Institute with Kelley Square.
The Eastern Connecticut students will receive $1,000 to split amongst the team members as part of their 2nd-place prize package. You can read their full proposal on Polar Park and related economic development initiatives here.