Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Minor league stadium key for economic growth in Springfield

By Zachary Baru

Springfield finds itself in a unique situation.  Within the next two years the city will see the development of an $800 million resort casino, Union Station will be renovated to become a regional transportation center, and a new factory to produce subway cars for Boston will be built by CNR Changchun Railway Vehicles.  This is a massive amount of economic activity within a relatively small radius, all happening within the next two years.  The timing for a minor league baseball stadium has never been better.

For Springfield to prosper, the city needs to be one where people can live, work and play.  Let's focus on the play part for now.  MGM Springfield's resort casino will bring an influx of regional visitors to the city who once may never have had a reason to come visit Springfield.  The more entertainment options the city can offer, the longer tourists will stay in Springfield, maximizing Springfield's economic potential.

The South End will be rejuvenated with MGM's plans for not only a resort casino, but outdoor options such as restaurants, shopping and entertainment, creating a true "inside-out" casino that can benefit the community.

Downtown will see more visitors that may be lead to attend events such as Falcons games and concerts at the MassMutual Center, the Springfield Symphony Orchestra and other shows at Symphony Hall, and events at CityStage.

The North End will become an improved and important multi-modal transportation center, where visitors can access Amtrak, Peter Pan, Greyhound and the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority all in one place for the first time.  But what about that "play" aspect that is so important to a city's development?  Where does this fit into the picture in the North End?

In order for Springfield to see full economic development, the focus cannot be solely
on the South End and Downtown.  Which leads to why Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno and Chief Development Officer Kevin Kennedy did such a great job with their presentation of "Springfield Vision 2017: The Right Direction" last Tuesday at CityStage.  Not only did their ideas of expanding development across the entire city show steps towards the right direction, but the idea of a new minor league baseball stadium showed forward-thinking and potential for the entire city.  While the idea is still a long-shot at the moment, a baseball team bringing thousands of fans into the city for 70 dates throughout the summer can represent yet another economic boost for a city that is exploding with economic potential.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at zachbaru@gmail.com.