Worcester hires Zimbalist, Mullan

Worcester’s hush-hush courtship of the Pawtucket Red Sox just got a bit more interesting.

The Telegram & Gazette reported that the city hired Smith College economist Andrew Zimbalist and former Massachusetts secretary of transportation Jeffrey Mullan to work as consultants on the project.

Zimbalist is generally regarded as a skeptic when it comes to public financing of stadiums. He has said stadiums are rarely a catalyst for economic development, but he acknowledges sports teams can have a powerful social or cultural impact on a community. Zimbalist was a leading critic of Boston’s pursuit of the 2024 Olympics and wrote a book about that effort with Chris Dempsey.

Mullan, an attorney at Foley Hoag in Boston, is an inside player who is skilled in development and transportation. He served as secretary of transportation under former governor Deval Patrick from 2009 to 2011.

Both Zimbalist and Mullan declined comment. Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus Jr. confirmed the hirings, but provided few other details, other than to say talks with PawSox officials are ongoing. Worcester is reportedly eyeing a location in the Canal District for a new stadium.

While Worcester officials have negotiated privately with the PawSox, talks in Rhode Island have been more public and contentious. The Senate Finance Committee wrapped up a series of hearings on October 24 related to a stadium proposal that would have the PawSox put up $12 million and the Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency chip in another $71 million through a bond sale. Over the 30-year life of the bonds, the team would pay off principal and interest on $33 million, the state $23 million, and the city $15 million.

It’s unclear whether the PawSox are also talking to other communities, but the Telegram & Gazette reported that Weymouth is a serious contender. Mayor Robert Hedlund declined comment, but said the city “is always open to opportunities for economic development.”



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