Nichols/Pioneer Fall 2020 Sports Management Policy Case Competition

Pioneer Institute has partnered with Nichols College to provide undergraduate college students an opportunity to solve problems pertinent to the present COVID-19 crisis in a rewarding, competitive format.

Specifically, we plan to facilitate the adaptation of professional sports leagues to these challenging times for the economic and social benefits they provide. Maintaining the viability of professional sports during a global pandemic can be extremely challenging, and we believe this issue deserves more attention in advance of a potential resurgence of COVID-19 later this fall.

  • Your team must be registered by October 14, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. EDT. To do so, submit a list of your team members, their email addresses, and their college affiliation(s) using the form below.
  • Pioneer will release the prompt and a list of suggested resources for the competition to all participants on October 15, 2020. We will accept policy statement entries no later than November 5, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. EDT.
  • Project teams should include 3-5 participants.
  • Please submit your team’s entry in PDF format and include the team members’ names on the cover page only. These conditions will help us ensure the impartiality of the judges.
  • Please be sure to properly cite the sources of your research, especially if you include data resources external to Pioneer Institute or Nichols College research materials. Plagiarism of any kind will not be tolerated.
  • To submit your entry, please use the form below, or otherwise email a PDF of your final document to before the deadline with the subject line “Nichols Case Competition Entry.”
  • All competitors will be notified whether they have been selected to present their projects to the judges by the week of November 12. These teams will then be given a short window of time to arrange a 15-minute Zoom conference with the judges before they determine a winner.

Pioneer will send the winners their monetary prizes in late November 2020, conditional on the submission of a W-9 form. Please send this form to

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.

While there is a precedent for stadium construction delays leading to a season of all road games in minor league baseball, Worcester city officials have a clear incentive to move the team to Worcester as soon as possible. The construction of Polar Park has been described as a “critical economic development project” for the city that has involved over $56 million in public sector investment, and has already been plagued by cost overruns. Further, the private sector investment in the project is to be paid for with a number of adjacent office, retail, and residential developments whose financing could look very different going forward, as COVID-19 has dampened demand for hotel rooms and office space.

Submit a policy statement of 2,500-3,000 words describing how to maintain the viability and timeliness of Polar Park’s construction in light of these new challenges. Please include:

  • Relevant background information
  • An explanation of the proposed solution(s)
  • How your solution(s) will allow the stadium to open in time for the 2021 minor league baseball season. Or, if you don’t think it’s realistic to open the stadium on time, propose an alternative that provides for some mitigation to Worcester
  • The costs and benefits of your approach compared to alternatives
  • Potential obstacles to implementation and enforcement
  • Suggestions that increase the likelihood that Polar Park will “pay for itself” in the long run by spurring economic activity in the city of Worcester

Your solution(s) should be grounded in concrete principles of both sports management and economic development. Please feel free to cite examples of your solutions from other countries or states.

The winning team of the competition will receive the $2,000 grand prize, the runner-up team will receive $1,000, and two other teams will be awarded $500, with the proceeds split amongst the team members. Additional rewards include publication opportunities for the students related to their submissions. Pioneer Institute will use our social media network – with access to over 200,000 followers – to promote each entry.

  • Dave Peterson, General Manager of the Worcester Bravehearts
  • Ryan Meagher – Season Ticket Sales Manager at the Worcester Red Sox
  • Ellen Roy Herzfelder – former Massachusetts Secretary of Environmental Affairs and current member of the Pioneer Institute Board of Directors
  • John T. Peculis – Senior Vice President of Commercial Lending at Fidelity Cooperative Bank