For the first time in ten years, arena football is coming back to Worcester.

The Massachusetts Pirates, the newest team in the National Arena League [NAL], will play their games in the DCU Center beginning April 2018.

Logo courtesy of insidethearena.org

The Pirates follow the New England Surge, the indoor football team that played at the DCU Center from 2007 to 2008.

Before the Surge – a member of the Continental Indoor Football League – was the 1994 Massachusetts Marauders, part of the Arena Football League that played at the then Worcester Centrum, but folded due to low attendance numbers. 

An arena football field is only 50 yards long [half the length of an NFL field] with walls along the sidelines.

The NAL was formed just this year and is made up of six teams: Jacksonville Sharks, Columbus Lions, Lehigh Valley, Steelhawks, Jersey Flight, Monterrey Steel and Georgia Firebirds. However, according to insidethearena.org, the Steel and Firebirds have yet to commit to the 2018 season.

During the 2017 season, each team played 12 regular season games — six home games, and six games on the road.

A representative from NAL Insider told ThisWeekinWorcester.com [TWIW] that the Pirates and the NAL will make an announcement about the expansion to Worcester soon.

In an email to TWIW, NAL Expansion Chairman Jeff Bouche said the league had no comment at this time.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story stated that former New England Surge head coach Rick Buffington was the owner of the team. That information was incorrect. Please return to ThisWeekinWorcester.com in the coming weeks for more information on the Massachusetts Pirates.

WORCESTER  – On Thursday, October 19, the Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. announced that a Worcester Superior Court jury found Erika Mullen of Worcester guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the stabbing death of Carlos Estrada in Worcester’s University Park that took place two years ago.

 

Estrada, 33, of Worcester, died October 4, 2015 after being stabbed by Mullen five times during an altercation on October 3 in University Park.

Early said, “I’d like to thank the jury for their deliberations. We appreciate their diligence over the last three days in reaching this verdict. I would also like to thank Chief Steve Sargent and the Worcester Police Department for their hard work on this very difficult case.”

Mullen will be sentenced on October 30 at 2 PM.

A second suspect, Anthony Chambers of Worcester — Mullen’s boyfriend — is still awaiting trial.

In the service industry, just as in sports, wins and losses are shared by the whole team. The wins and losses in our industry are translated in our tips.

While each business has their own way of breaking down who gets what cut, almost every bar or restaurant in the country has guidelines in place for who gets what percent of the tips at the end of a shift. Servers are generally the only position in the restaurant who keep their own tips, but even they are required to tip out the service bar, food runners, and other support as needed. At most bars, the bartenders pool their tips. How they divvy that up at the end of the night varies from place to place.

Bartenders start shifts at different times during the night, and each have their own strengths and weaknesses. While you, the customer, were having a wonderful conversation with your bartender, and enjoying their personalized cocktails, their counterpart may have been cleaning, stocking, or handling an issue in the kitchen. They were picking up the other work that must get done so that you could get the attention you deserve.

When a customer slides money across the bar and asks, “Can you just put this in your pocket just for you?”, it is a huge compliment, undoubtedly. Even if you assure us that you will include a normal tip for the pool as well, we can’t just pocket the money for ourselves.

There are times when we all wish this weren’t true, and unfortunately those aren’t necessarily because of great teamwork. These are the days when one person is not pulling their weight at all and it is painfully noticeable to the customers. I am sure I am not the only one who has been in the uncomfortable position of having to address this with a customer. It is such a relief that customers want to honor hard work instead of focus on the weak link, alas, we still cannot pocket the money.

So, what do you do as a customer wanting to reward great service? Well, there are a few options.

First, you can still leave that tip. Yes, it will get split amongst the rest of the team, but ultimately it is increasing our take-home. And, in the last scenario, it is making up for teammate who may be bringing down our bottom line.

As cliché as it may seem, a good review goes a long way. If you had a great experience, let the world know. In a world of “Can I speak to the manager?”, be the “Everyone, go visit this person at this place!” Bar and restaurant owners and managers refer to their reviews regularly when it is time to make decisions, including scheduling and promotions.

Although promotions aren’t something you see happening regularly in this industry, they do happen. Getting weekly or monthly notifications about reviews that mention the same person are a catalyst for change. If Suzy Sunshine is constantly receiving rave reviews for her well-crafted cocktails, it’s time for Suzy to take over the dinner rush. If John Doe continues to get complaints that customers see too much of the back of his head during a game then he probably shouldn’t be working the Sunday shift during football season.  

If nothing else, let us know that you had a great experience and come back. Regulars are the best thing to happen to a bartender—and a business owner—who wants to last long in this industry.

WORCESTER – Very serious and ongoing negotiations are currently taking place between the City of Worcester and the Pawtucket Red Sox ownership group. 

“There are serious and substantive conversations taking place and the Chamber fully supports that. We are happy to play a role in those conversations as we explore not just to bring baseball and a ballpark to Worcester, but significant jobs and tax-base expansion to the city,” Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce President Timothy P. Murray said in a phone interview on Wednesday, Oct. 18.

Although Murray couldn’t speak to any numbers in a possible deal, according to another source familiar with the negotiations, the City of Worcester and the Pawtucket Red Sox ownership group are working on an agreement to relocate the team to Worcester’s Canal District and construct a new baseball stadium — reportedly a $72 million project.

The source also told ThisWeekinWorcester.com that the team will be called the Worcester Red Sox.

Early estimates, according to a source, are the state of Massachusetts and the City of Worcester will be responsible for 72 percent of the cost of constructing the stadium [nearly $52 million]. A breakdown of that cost and how it would be covered by city and state was unavailable. The PawSox ownership group – led by co-owner Larry Lucchino – wouldcover the remaining 28 percent under these terms. 

When reached for comment on Wednesday, City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr. said, “We continue to have conversations with the PawSox team and that’s where we stand.”

Augustus could not comment further as negotiations remain ongoing.

According to a source, representatives from the City of Worcester and Wyman-Gordon have met recently to negotiate the takeover of a parcel of land [see map below] owned by Wyman-Gordon off Madison St. and Washington St near Kelley Square. 

That parcel of land can be taken under eminent domain by the City of Worcester and the Worcester Redevelopment Authority.

A developer with experience in constructing baseball stadiums has been in Worcester recently to look at the space, and according to sources, the view from home plate will be the spires of Union Station. The view into left field will be facing towards Southbridge St. with the SkyMark Tower and the Worcester Plaza buildings on the horizon. The stadium will hold at least 10,000 seats, per minor league baseball rules.

Return to ThisWeekinWorcester.com for further coverage and updates on this developing story.

WORCESTER – The City of Worcester continues to be “all in” when it comes to luring Amazon.  City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr. presented Worcester’s bid to the City Council at Tuesday night’s meeting.

The proposal identified 98 acres along Route 20 for Amazon’s second headquarters [HQ2], where a Big Y Supermarket formerly sat.

The sixty page proposal highlights many of the great things that the City of Worcester has to offer.  It speaks to the city’s to quality of life, and access to transportation, technology, innovation and sustainability.

The proposal focuses on Worcester’s passion for innovation stating the many colleges that Amazon could draw its employee pool from, namely Worcester Polytechnic Institute [WPI].

The key elements to the proposal were the incentives that the city was prepared to offer.

  • Up to $500 million in Real Estate Tax Savings
  • 100% Personal Property Tax Exemption for Over Twenty Years
  • $1 Million in Job Creation Grant Funds
  • Quick and Streamlined permitting process

“Worcester combines the warmth of a small town with the vibrancy of a thriving metropolis,”  a joint letter from Mayor Joseph M. Petty and Augustus said. “A center of commerce, industry, healthcare and education, the city of Worcester is undergoing an economic resurgence and has repositioned itself in recent years to accommodate the needs of a dynamic economy.”

Although the proposal did not a get a full discussion during the council meeting, City Councilor At-Large Konstantina Lukes asked that it be put on the city’s website for the public to view.

The proposal was added to the site Wednesday morning and can be seen here.

District 3 City Councilor George Russell was disappointed at his lack of involvement in the proposal site selection and even stated that part of the site property was owned by a relative of his.

Proposed Site for Amazon Headquarters in Worcester

“I’m disappointed, quite frankly, this is in the heart of District 3,” Russell said during the meeting. “I was not consulted on any impacts there might be to this area and I’m disappointed very much that folks at least weren’t talked to about this.”

In a phone interview on Wednesday, Oct.18, Russell said, “I would have expected of any councilor to received a heads up for impact to the area and insight on the neighborhood.”

Russell said there are certain zoning issues that he has initially identified, wetland and conservation considerations and possible further development that may be needed outside the proposal to accommodate Amazon.

“It crosses zone lines and O’Hara Brook runs right through there,” Russell said. However, he added, “Am I against this coming? Of course not.”

 

Councilor At-Large Kate Toomey had a different viewpoint than her counterpart. “I think this is a wonderful opportunity for Worcester.  That [proposal site] has been underutilized for way too long.  It is an ideal location,” Toomey said.

When asked about the lack of involvement of the city council, Toomey agreed that the report being presented the way it was wasn’t ideal, but she approved of the proposal.

“I didn’t know what to say to people. However, the proposal needs to be accepted first. The devil will be in the detail and there will be plenty of opportunity for the people to speak,”  Toomey said.

Toomey added that the area of the proposed site has all the amenities that are needed for a successful bid. She outlined the proximity to the Massachusetts Turnpike, the train, and the sewer work that will be done along Rte. 20.  She also stated that the neighborhoods surrounding the headquarters will become prime residential real estate.

“People will be able to walk to work,” she said.

On Sept. 7, Amazon announced plans to open a second company headquarters in North America, Amazon HQ2. The project states that Amazon expects to invest over $5 billion in construction and grow this second headquarters to include as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs over the initial 15-17 years of the project. Proposals are due to Amazon on October 19.

WORCESTER – On Tuesday evening at the Worcester City Council meeting, the City handed out a 60-page proposal put together by the City of Worcester in an attempt to persuade online-retailer Amazon to build its second headquarters in Worcester.

The proposal to Amazon included $500 million in real estate tax savings and a 100 percent property tax exemption over 20 years. Additionally, the City of Worcester is offering several tax credits and $1 million in grants for job creation.

Along with the proposal, the City also created the video below which includes scenes of Worcester’s downtown area, restaurants, colleges and more.

Check in with ThisWeekinWorcester.com for more details and further coverage of Worcester’s proposal to Amazon tomorrow morning.

 

WORCESTER – The “silent majority” was a term that President Richard M. Nixon used in 1969 to garner support for the Vietnam War and ultimately his re-election in 1972.  The silent majority has delivered their voice over the last year once again with the election of President Donald J. Trump.  However, in Worcester’s Municipal Elections in 2015, there was a true silent majority that may have shaped the outcome of the election.

“I think that one of the most important elections that people can vote in are their local elections because the decisions made by local officials impact our daily lives. So I hope that as many people as possible get out to vote on November 7,” School Committee member Molly O. McCullough said in an interview on Tuesday, Oct. 17.

The 2015 Municipal Election had a relatively high turnout at 21.35% of registered voters going to the polls.  In that essence, you would say the silent majority stayed home.  What the election results don’t say on the surface are the number of blank votes that were cast during that election.  Those ballots with less the maximum amount of votes could have vaulted a candidate, or cost a candidate, depending on who you ask.

In the Councilor-at-Large race, spots five through seven were determined by 160 votes.  There was a call for a recount for the sixth spot by candidate Juan Gomez who lost to eventual winner Councilor-at-Large Khrystian E. King by 76 votes.

In that race there were 119,724 votes cast.  Among those, 38,521 votes were blank, meaning that voters did not vote for six candidates on their ballot.  That total equaled to 32% of the votes cast in that race.

The number was greater on the School Committee side where blank votes totaled 49,865.  That came out to being 42% of the School Committee votes being blank.  The race for the School Committee race saw two incumbents ousted.  The difference between sixth and seventh place was 597 total votes.

Wards 3 through 6, which comprise Districts 2 and 3, had a 17% voter turnout.  The people that did come out to vote cast 12,793 blank votes in the at-large Election, which is 35% of the vote and 15,635 votes, or 39% in the School Committee race.

District 4 (Wards 7 and 9), had a 13% percent turnout.  Their blank vote total was 40% in the At-Large race and a 47% total in the  School Committee race.

It is safe to assume that there were a large amount of protest votes, commonly known as “bullet voting”, where voters vote for just one candidate and leave the rest blank.  It could be the reason why Councilor-at-Large Michael T. Gaffney vaulted from a sixth place finish in 2013, to a second place finish in 2015.  He also amassed 3,000 more votes.

It could be argued that approximately 15,000 more votes were cast in 2015, so Gaffney’s numbers would naturally go up.  Of the incumbents that were seeking re-election, the numbers did in fact go up, but not even half of what Gaffney received.

So was it the message or was it voter confusion?

“In terms of the blanks, it is entirely the voters choice. Our responsibility is to make the ballot directions clear and educate the voter on election day to understand that they can vote up to six candidates for at-large and school committee,”  Assistant City Clerk Niko Vangjeli said in an email on Tuesday, Oct. 17.

The political atmosphere this time around is not nearly as intense as it was two years ago.  Gaffney has dropped out of the race and there are roughly 13,000 more voters.  The election could certainly come down to voter turnout.

“It’s hard to predict voter turnout. I cannot make any predictions at this time. However as an office we always prepare for 100%,” Vangjeli said.

WORCESTER – In a letter sent last week to Worcester City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr., District 1 City Council candidate Ed Moynihan expressed his appreciation for the City of Worcester’s Complete Streets program and proposed an addition to the program called Green Man +.

Green Man + is a program that initiated in Singapore and provides a swipe card to elderly people or those with disabilities and allows up to 13 additional seconds of crossing time at crosswalks when used.

 

“We know that the average, able-bodied person traveling the streets of Worcester can walk at a speed of 4.5 feet per second, which is 1.5 times the speed of the average elderly person. According to a 2006 report from the Federal Highway Administration, a person with a mobility impairment can walk as slowly as 1.97 feet per second. The Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices recommends an assumption of 4.0 feet per second, while the Americans with Disability Act recommends an assumption of 3.0 feet per second of pedestrian speed,” Moynihan wrote in his letter to Augustus. 

According to Moynihan, due to some difficulties people have in Worcester with mobility, the benefits of this program is “immediately apparent.”

Moynihan also mentioned that traffic flow could be improved with the system by shortening the time allowed to cross a street until the system is engaged.

Moynihan also noted that all Worcester residents will grow older in time, writing, “This program, then, will benefit all current and future residents of our great city, allowing them to age-in-place more gracefully.”

WORCESTER – A dangerous new trend called “swerving” is interrupting Worcester traffic and the Worcester Police department has created a task force to put an end to it.

In a communication from Worcester Police Chief Steve Sargent to City Manager Edward Augustus, Sargent said, “Swerving involves teens riding their bicycles into oncoming traffic and veering away at the last minute as well as doing wheelies and stunts on busy streets. The new trend has been reported by municipalities and police departments across
the country. This new trend is potentially deadly and is putting the general public at risk.”

According to the WPD, police officers have identified teenagers purposely blocking traffic and surrounding vehicles. The police department also refers to several reports of vandalized and damaged OFO bicycles -a new bike-sharing program that launched last month in Worcester.

The WPD task force will be made up bike patrols patrolling neighborhoods throughout the city.

The video below was taken on Tuesday, Oct. 17 and several OFO bicycles can be seen in the group of nearly three dozen kids on bicycles interrupting traffic on Franklin and Foster streets in downtown Worcester.

 

Video courtesy of Anthony Romeo.

A political bombshell was dropped on Monday when both Michael and Coreen Gaffney announced their withdrawals from their respective campaigns.

Mr. Gaffney’s departure from the City Councilor At-Large race will certainly make more waves across Worcester’s city government than his wife, Coreen, deciding to withdraw from the District 4 City Council race.

We anticipate that Mayor Joe Petty, Kate Toomey and Konnie Lukes are all but guaranteed another term on the council. We would have put Gaffney in that group as well if he had remained in the race.

By removing his name for consideration, Gaffney is ultimately opening the door for one of the four remaining candidates running for an At-Large seat — namely Gary Rosen, Benjamin Straight, Morris Bergman and Khrystian King.

In all likelihood, some of the votes that were going to go to Gaffney will wind up between Lukes and Rosen.

Bergman and King both narrowly beat out Juan Gomez in the 2015 municipal election by less than 200 votes.

The real winner in the fallout of Gaffney’s exit is Rosen. Being a familiar name on the ballot, being a current member on the council representing District 5, and garnering some of Gaffney’s votes should help him secure that sixth and final spot — with Straight being the odd man out when all is said and done.

With Coreen Gaffney withdrawing from the District 4 city council race — Sarai Rivera will be the second female district councilor running unopposed [Candy Mero-Carlson in District 2 is the other] and will move on to serve her fourth two-year term on the council.

Although the Gaffneys didn’t say what they were going to be doing or where they were going, they left the door open on their way out and an opportunity for others to step in.