WORCESTER - The cost of Polar Park has been a topic of discussion again over the last few weeks. The discussion reignited in part to the release of a paper written by Holy Cross Professor Robert Baumann and John Charles Bradbury of Kennesaw State University. The paper predicts the ballpark will ultimately fall $40 million to $60 million short of paying for itself.
This Week in Worcester requested fiscal year 2023 financial information from the City of Worcester to understand its near-term debt obligations for Polar Park. Fiscal year 2023 ends on June 30.
According to information provided by the city, the city will pay $5.2 million in debt obligations for fiscal year 2023. Revenues from property & meals taxes, permit fees, team rent, Madison lease payments, parking revenues, and advertising is expected to provide $3.1 million through the end of fiscal year 2023, leaving a $2.1 million shortfall between revenue and the city's obligation.
Polar Park and the area around it categorized as a district improvement financing (DIF) area. The revenue used to pay for the financing of the ballpark comes from within the DIF.
The additional $2.1 million needed for the $5.2 million payment is being withdrawn from the reserve fund the city holds for the ballpark. A spokesperson for the city said that reserve includes of prior-year revenue and working capital.
That reserve fund will take $600,000 into fiscal year 2024.
The city's required payment on its Polar Park debt is $6.2 million in fiscal year 2024. If it were to use the remainder of the funds reserve, the city would require an additional $5.6 million in revenue, an 80 percent increase over 2023, to reach its payment obligation using only revenue generated from within the DIF.
The DIF area generated less than $1 million in each of the first two years. Revenue increased by an impressive margin in fiscal year 2023. Ongoing construction at Madison Apartments, which is part of the DIF, is scheduled to open in this calendar year. That property will add some property tax revenue to the DIF. That revenue is not expected to close the full gap.
If the DIF area falls short of generating the necessary revenue for the debt payment, the city will have to find additional revenue. The city sold a property for $3 million in fiscal year 2022 to generate revenue for the payment and avoid tapping taxpayer funds.