We Should Heed Caution on the PawSox Moving to Providence

McCoy Stadium Pan
“McCoy Stadium Pan”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:McCoy_Stadium_Pan.jpg

RIPR’s Scott MacKay is right to throw water on the idea of giving over vacant 195 land to build a riverside stadium. It’s not clear that a stadium makes much sense. Take for instance, these two charts of total and average attendance among the PawSox’s International League.

IL Attendance IL Average


I’ve highlighted a few teams. Pawtucket is highlighted in red, Indianapolis is in gold, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is in blue, and Charlotte is in green. You can see the slide in attendance at McCoy from 2005, although there was an increase in 2013. Pawtucket’s drop from attendance leader to middle-of-the-pack isn’t entirely due to decline. It’s also due to increasing attendance in other stadiums.

Each of those lines tells a story. Pawtucket’s is obviously one of dropping attendance. Indianapolis’ increased attendance appears to stem from improvements to Victory Field before the 2010 season. The sudden spikes in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre are apparently due to its affiliation with the Yankees in 2007, and that PNC Field was rebuilt for the 2013 season. Charlotte’s spike, as WPRI’s Dan McGowan points out is due to relocation.

McCoy was last renovated in 1999.

It’s not clear to me if putting a stadium in Providence is the best use of the land, or the new owner’s money. It’s possible they could boost attendance by putting money into renovations for McCoy. And there’s something that strikes me as wrong about our views on economic development if it means moving a baseball team six miles south.

This is reshuffling a bit of our economy, not growing it.

That said, there’s plenty of reasons for businesses to get excited about having the stadium close by, including businesses across the river who could benefit from the proposed pedestrian bridge that might now be leading directly to a stadium. But as MacKay points out:

Baseball stadiums and other tourist attractions don’t provide the well-paying jobs that high-technology and educational institutions provide. There are lots of seasonal, low-wage positions slinging cocktails, pouring beer and taking tickets, but they don’t pay living family wages. If tourist attractions were the way to build a middle-class economy, New Orleans would be the wealthiest city in the U.S. (It isn’t, despite its healthy supply of great places to eat, drink and hear jazz.)

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