The Pawtucket Red Sox, Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, have been sold to a 10-member ownership group that includes Fenway Sports Management, a sister company of the Boston Red Sox, as a prominent stakeholder. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The PawSox, as they are commonly known, had been owned by Madeline Mondor, the widow of Ben Mondor. Mondor bought the team in 1977 and remained its owner until his death in 2010. PawSox president Mike Tamburro and vice president Ludwig "Lou" Schwechheimer were also part of the previous ownership group; both men will continue on with the team in their current roles.
During Mondor's long tenure as owner, the PawSox established themselves as a model of consistency in the Minor Leagues. Their home of McCoy Stadium, which opened in 1942 and has since been extensively renovated, is the oldest ballpark in the International League. The Triple-A affiliation between the Red Sox and Pawtucket dates back to 1973, which was preceded by three seasons in which the PawSox served as Boston's Double-A Eastern League affiliate.
Given that the Red Sox are now partial owners of the Pawtucket franchise, the long-running affiliation is sure to continue.
"The Boston Red Sox have enjoyed a productive relationship with the Pawtucket Red Sox for more than four decades," said Boston Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino, who, along with attorney James Skeffington, is now a principal owner of the PawSox. "The franchise has played key roles in the Red Sox' historic success, both as a player development affiliate and as a Rhode Island home for affordable family entertainment. We seek to enhance those roles, and to honor the substantial contributions that Ben Mondor and his loyal team have made to this community for generations."
Nonetheless, major changes appear to be in store for the franchise. On Monday morning, Providence TV station WPRI reported that the new owners plan to move the team to Rhode Island's capital city of Providence, which borders Pawtucket to the south. The team would compete in a privately financed stadium, which the new ownership group would like to see completed within the next three years.
Skeffington confirmed these plans during a Monday afternoon press conference, saying that the new ownership group is doing its "due diligence" on a potential riverfront urban site that would include visibility from the highway, access to public transportation, proximity to Providence's business community, premier player amenities and training facilities and the ability to host an array of non-baseball events. He cited the 2017 season as the earliest possible opening date for such a facility, but said that 2018 was "more likely."
"We'll fund it ourselves and then ask the state and city to join us in some fashion," said Skeffington. "We want to develop in a way that creates economic opportunity in a difficult environment. ... We believe that this can be a catalytic investment on our part, the state's part, the city's part."
Skeffington also indicated that, if and when the relocation to Providence occurs, the franchise will change its name to the "Rhode Island Red Sox."
"The team doesn't belong to the city. It belongs to the state, it belongs to everyone," he said. "It should bear the name of the state."
Providence's proximity to Pawtucket ensures that the club will be able to draw from the same pool of fans which have consistently supported the club since the team's 1970 inception. Nonetheless, the news of a likely relocation came as a blow to the city of Pawtucket.
The Providence Journal reported Monday that members of the new ownership group met with Pawtucket city leadership on Sunday evening, with mayor Donald R. Grebien remarking that the possibility of a long-term future in Pawtucket "wasn't even on the table."
"I can't tell you half of what they said, because when they said 'It's not going to be in Pawtucket,' that just took the air out of the room," said Grebien, as reported by the Journal.
"We did some feasibility work, to get an idea of what it would take to make the necessary improvements [to McCoy Stadium]," said Skeffington. "It was very expensive, and it doesn't have the amenities that Triple-A teams are offering their players. In Pawtucket the infrastructure isn't there. Times have changed. Ballparks have changed."
News of the PawSox's likely relocation bears striking similarities to the situation currently playing out in neighboring Connecticut, as the Double-A New Britain Rock Cats will move to a new stadium in the nearby capital city of Hartford in 2016. A groundbreaking ceremony for that yet-to-be-named downtown facility took place last Tuesday.
The PawSox play their 2015 home opener at McCoy Stadium on April 16 against the Rochester Red Wings, with Tamburro and Schwechheimer entering their 39th and 37th season with the club, respectively. Under their leadership, the club has gone from drawing fewer than 100,000 fans per season to perennially topping the 500,000 threshold.
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.