WORCESTER — Since the WooSox arrived in the Canal District, team Chairman and Principal Owner Larry Lucchino continually describes the ongoing project that is Polar Park as a win-win proposition for everyone involved, including the city.
So Lucchino, along with ballpark architect Janet Marie Smith, have worked each offseason to make sure fans have plenty of fresh innovations to look forward to each season.
The WooSox announced several upgrades and additions to the ballpark, and the overall fan experience during the team’s annual Hot Stove event for season ticket-holders Thursday afternoon in the DCU Club at Polar Park.
“We’re going to constantly change it, so Opening Day feels like Christmas morning,” Lucchino said. “We are really proud of this ballpark. We’re proud of its success, and the success the fans have ushered into Worcester and Central Mass. We are hopeful we can keep this ballpark changing, new, and different enough to keep people coming back time and time again.”
The major announcement was the addition of a new Fan Deck.
The WooSox have worked well with the city and the developer, Madison Properties, to think of a way to utilize the space behind the left field berm until that proposed building, and its tenant, is finalized.
In the meantime, the idea is to extend the berm, and extend the Plymouth Street experience to create a new Fan Deck.
“It’s an extension of this wonderful, casual area and anyone in the ballpark will be able to enjoy it,” Smith said. “Our hope is it will create a wonderful new way to watch a game in a casual setting.”
The Fan Deck will add 200 spaces that will be covered to protect fans from the elements. There also will be an area for fans to participate in games, including cornhole and other entertainment. Lucchino explained the Fan Deck is temporary until the building behind left field is complete.
Since Opening Day is March 31 (the earliest it has ever been for the Triple-A affiliate of the Red Sox), no doubt fans will battle some early-season weather, so the WooSox have added heaters on the concourse for spring games.
The team also has enhanced its already popular food menu and will add lobster rolls for $23 and New England clam chowder, which will become staples at Polar Park. An earlier version of this story had an incorrect price for lobster rolls, according to the team. New ticket booths have been added at Gates B and C. Fans also asked for more drink rails around the ballpark, so those have been added. Fans also can order food from their seat throughout the park, and the team has enhanced its allergy-friendly measures.
Parking always has been a concern for fans, but the team and the city have worked together to make it easy to attend a game. The WooSox now have five Blue Woo Shuttles, which are all-electric, golf-cart style vehicles that provide free transportation to and from Polar Park from many areas throughout the city.
More than 200 fans attended Thursday's event, which including a Q&A with Lucchino, Smith and team president, Dr. Charles Steinberg. The ownership group received a massive ovation from the fans when it announced that televisions have been added to the rest rooms at Polar Park.
Smith explained that when you look around the league at both Minor and Major League Baseball, there are two trends that are really noticeable.
“Time doesn’t stand still for any building, particularly when you build something that is designed for people to spend their leisure time, and they make choices about spending their free time,” Smith said. “You’re always evolving with the changing behaviors, whether it’s with food, drink, retail or the kids’ areas.”
Smith also believes that Minor League Baseball has pushed MLB to rethink how ballparks are utilized for other entertainment options. Given the way new, state-of-the-art ballparks are built, including Polar Park, that allows fans to enjoy the experience in many ways during a game.
“It’s on steroids here at Polar Park,” Smith said. “You can sit in nine different seats throughout nine innings here and have a different perspective on the game no matter where you are, and it’s a really exciting way to spend a game, which is often criticized for the fact that it doesn’t have a clock, and you never know how long it’s going to last. That’s part of its magic.”
Polar Park has become a must-experience destination for baseball fans. Nearly 1 million fans have visited the Canal District over the team’s first two seasons, and the goal is to build on that momentum.
“We want Worcester’s popularity to continue,” Lucchino said. “The one way to do that is to keep growing, and changing the ballpark.”
Contact Joe McDonald at JMcDonald2@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @JoeyMacHockey.
This article originally appeared on Telegram & Gazette: Shiny upgrades continue at Polar Park as WooSox season draws near