Mayor: Apex location frontrunner for potential new ballpark

PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) – Mayor Don Grebien said Friday the old Apex site in his city is the frontrunner for a potential new ballpark to replace the aging McCoy Stadium.

Grebien, D-Pawtucket, didn’t outright dismiss the possibility that the Pawtucket Red Sox could remain at McCoy, but admitted the price tag to renovate the 75-year-old facility may not make it the right business decision. A study released in January found it would cost $68 million to renovate McCoy, and about $75 million to tear it down and replace it at the same location.

“If you are looking at it purely from a business perspective, you are better off finding a higher value,” Grebien said during a taping of WPRI 12’s Newsmakers. The PawSox ownership group “is looking at a couple of sites, Apex being one of them,” he said.

Grebien has long championed keeping the storied minor league franchise at McCoy, but his comments indicated the chances of that happening are diminishing.

“It all comes down to what the city, the state, and partnership with the PawSox are willing to do to make a deal,” he said.

Bill Wanless, a spokesman for the PawSox, said the team echoes the mayor’s comments. “We do want to make this work in Pawtucket,” he said.

The owners of the mostly vacant former department store have previously acknowledged they are in talks with the team. Grebien said the Apex location is appealing because of its proximity to I-95 and a planned commuter rail station, as well as its closeness to downtown restaurants and breweries.

“It’s an activity center,” Grebien said. “People would have more amenities and attractions.”

The PawSox lease at McCoy Stadium, which is publicly owned, is set to expire after the 2020 season. Grebien said he hopes to have a deal worked out with the team sometime this year.

“In a perfect world if they could get control of Apex and the owner who has the site control was willing to work with them at a reasonable rate, you could get it all done this season,” Grebien said. “If everything fit by this season and they start construction this season you can get it done [before the end of the lease].”

Grebien said the team is also looking at another potential location, the site of the old Tidewater coal plant off Taft Street, which hugs the Seekonk River.

If the team leaves McCoy, Grebien said the land where the stadium current sits could potentially be used for a new high school or even a relocated City Hall.

“Could we start consolidating schools, government facilities onto that site?” Grebien said. “Buildings such as [the current] City Hall or schools could then go back on the tax rolls.”

Tim White ( twhite@wpri.com ) is the Target 12 investigative reporter and host of Newsmakers for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook