OopSox chill at Polar Park

Retro stadium proposed for PawSox in Providence shortly after team was sold. (bostonglobe.com)

By the time this has posted, the WooSox, as the former PawSox Triple-A Boston Red Sox franchise is called, will have played their home opener at the new Polar Park, in Worcester, Mass. Rhode Island baseball fans are of two minds about the team’s absquatulation from Pawtucket: 1) they hate it, or 2) they really hate it. Most non-fans don’t much care. I had some pleasant outings at McCoy after I learned how to find it. Still, in this whole sad train of events, it was the lost opportunity for Providence that irks me the most.

(Absquatulation is a comical Latinate synonym for departure, with a hint of leaving with its tail between its legs.)

To recapitulate events that might have fled the memory of some readers, longtime team owner Ben Mondor died in 2010. His widow sold the team in 2015. Its new owners soon announced the team would move into a retro stadium to be built on the new Providence waterfront. Alas, the deal fell through. The new owners, disinclined to remain in Pawtucket, then played “let’s make a deal” with several Massachusetts cities. To counter this auction tactic, Pawtucket proposed, along with the state of Rhode Island, a new riverfront stadium next to its downtown. In 2017, the General Assembly approved a deal that shifted more of the financial burden from the state to the team. The team rejected that deal. At last, in 2018, Worcester pitched the best woo, with an assist from Massachusetts. Polar Park was built and the WooSox held their home opener today against the Syracuse Mets. (The WooSox won 8-5 in a game with six home runs.)

Rhode Island will survive the loss of professional baseball. Pawtucket is the big loser, but Providence could have won big-time if the stadium had been built on the vacated Route 195 land where the west end of its new pedestrian bridge terminates in one of the many public parks along the city’s new riverfront.

It seems to me that the long knives were unsheathed for this proposal from the start. The owners’ initial proposal was treated not as an opening gambit to be negotiated toward parity but as a non-negotiable deal killer by owners intending, for some obscure reason, to fail. When the proposal was twisted by the media as wealthy team owners eager to turn a public park into private profit, the city and Brown University withdrew their support, never mind that the waterfront was festooned with parks. This led to the swift demise of what could have been a bonanza for the city, the state, their citizens and, of course, the team.

My own personal stake in this deal was the hope that the classic beauty of an old-fashioned ballfield might cause the recently created innovation district to shift its architectural strategy from one of stark, raving modernism to a more people-friendly set of traditional styles – similar to the classical trend in Capital Center that was aborted by the GTECH building in the mid-1990s. That was my excuse for supporting the sin of a publicly funded sports venue. Whether it would have worked I have no idea; as things stand now, it didn’t take long for modernism to stifle all hope of a humanistic innovation district on the edge of downtown.

Polar Park, named for a soft-drink manufacturer in Worcester, is a great title for the new stadium, but not because the naming rights belong to Polar Beverages Inc. Yes, Worcester is cold in winter, but baseball is a summer game. No, Polar Park is apropos because it evokes the ballpark’s ice-cold architecture. Look at it. Warm it ain’t. A chill for WooSox fans is, however, cold comfort for baseball fans in Rhode Island, 49 miles’ drive from McCoy in the Bucket.

New Polar Park stadium for WooSox in Worcester, Mass. (William Morgan)

Brrr! … But wait! Below is an early rendering of the ballpark in Worcester back in 2019, cozy and traditional. That’s not what they built. What happened? Maybe it was the old bait-and-switch. Maybe the cozy traditional stadium proposed at first for downtown Providence would have been the same bait-and-switch. If so, this will be the last word on the subject from a rube who swallowed it hook, line and sinker.

Early rendering of proposed ballpark for Worcester Red Sox. (masslive.com)

Read William Morgan’s assessment of Worcester’s new WooSox stadium at GoLocalProv.com. It’s excellent, except for when he seems to be sorry the team did not build an even more exacrable stadium.

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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6 Responses to OopSox chill at Polar Park

    • Many thanks, Gabriel. Rather than having fun deploring the WooSox and their ridiculous stadium, however, I’d rather have seen the PawSox installed in a Providence riverfront ballpark, or at least seen them stay in the Bucket!


  1. John the First says:

    “Rhode Island will survive the loss of professional baseball. ”

    Dear Americans, lets face it, everything worthwhile the US has in terms of architectural styles is inherited from Europe, it is imitation of historical European high brow culture, either aristocratic culture, religious culture, or ancient Greek culture (aside of some import from other cultures). On the latter it is has to be added that high culture in ancient Greece was able to flourish in despite of the barbarianism of most of the ancient Greeks. It was the work of a small school.
    Now on the contrary to what Nikos Salingaros and whatever scientists and statisticians might ‘calculate’, ‘the people’ are not the protectors of culture, ‘the people’ come to ransack culture, including traditional architecture. The fact that a significant amount of people dislike the desolate modernism doesn’t mean they are in favour of the traditionalists as traditionalists themselves see it. If it is up to the people, they will bring about some kind of infantile hodgepodge jungle style, to the extent that one would almost wish for the brute style of modernism, which at least has a style.

    So, when baseball teams leave, and baseball stadiums for the masses leave, the barbarians may leave, as there is no longer bread and play for them, to put it bluntly.

    I understand that this must be blasphemy in the US church of cultural equality, but your equality model is long overdue. A foundational ideal which if you stick to it too long, it looses its vitality, and it becomes a travesty. It is time that the US instead of only allowing and pursuing inequality in terms of capitalist inequality, which leads to a culture of money grabbing barbarism, you start to think about cultural inequality, of what is superior culturally, however painful… That the departure of mass and mob culture phenomenon indeed can be survived… nay, be welcomed.


  2. LazyReader says:

    Retro ball parks aside, has little to do with downtown. Baseball only has 81 homegames, 77% of the year stadium is empty and serves NO purpose. Except as a huge tax funded boondoggle while billionaire team owners cry poverty while cajooling the taxpayer to play for their palaces.
    Pro sports were invented to keep the mentally handicapped busy. Make them feel like they contribute to society. We have athletes in college; they’re adults with reading and writing skills of 5th graders. One in five are functionally illiterate. Sports was also designed to keep people of equal or lesser intelligence entertained because it’s cheap to produce, No writers, no script, They Have a stage; a Stadium; they have actors who earn a salary. Sports fans watch their favorite players do as they are told, they don’t challenge authority or criticize the system in the same way that
    soldiers are taught not to complain. Wasn’t until athletes started Taking a knee, fans said Why Aren’t they LOVING the system. The system equates obedience with being respectful, honorable, and responsible. Someone who speaks out is disrespectful, a smart ass, immature, or perhaps a lunatic or a criminal. Sports talk shows are powerful reinforcement platforms of government narratives and not about truth. Owned by the same corporate giants who own most of the media, sports talk shows have long been known for censoring truth from the communication airwaves. Try calling into a major sports network with real questions about freedom, tyranny, sports, and the global government agenda and see how far you get. Bernays also noted in his 1928 book, Propaganda, that propaganda is the executive arm of the invisible government. Some might take offense at seeing religion, or even politics, put alongside sports as a method of mind control. The central theme is the same throughout: divide and conquer. The techniques are quite simple: short circuit the natural tendency of people to cooperate for their survival, and teach them to form teams bent on domination and winning.


    • John the First says:

      “Pro sports were invented to keep the mentally handicapped busy.”

      “We have athletes in college; they’re adults with reading and writing skills of 5th graders. One in five are functionally illiterate. Sports was also designed to keep people of equal or lesser intelligence entertained because it’s cheap to produce”

      Luckily you do not have a podium, certainly not in a stadium, as they would come to lynch you.


    • John the First says:

      “Sports talk shows are powerful reinforcement platforms of government narratives ”

      If figured these where just about incessant, hyper-reflexive obsessive twaddle and babble, and that they designed these to destroy the brains of the people through sheer massive overload, rather than to ‘reinforce’.


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