PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WJAR) -- The Pawtucket Red Sox will leave Rhode Island, their home for more than 40 years, for an "innovative" ballpark in Worcester, the team and city officials said Friday.
The team will be renamed the Worcester Red Sox.
"We are eager to build an innovative, family-friendly ballpark that reflects the love and appreciation of baseball and that unifies Central Massachusetts and the Blackstone Valley Corridor," PawSox Chairman Larry Lucchino said in a statement released just before an afternoon news conference at Worcester City Hall.
PawSox executives said the team will continue to play at 77-year-old McCoy Stadium the next two years. The Worcester stadium is projected to open in 2021.
The move requires the approval of Minor League Baseball.
The city has been trying to lure the team to Massachusetts for about year. PawSox executives were spotted in Worcester several times.
The team has been scouting a location for a new stadium in the city's Canal District near Interstate 290.
Worcester has been buzzing about scoring the Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.
"Going to be a good opportunity for other people around the city to get a job," said Matt Cooper of Worcester. "I'm happy that they're leaving Pawtucket, but I'm sad that they're leaving Pawtucket."
"It's gonna be a really goo thing to have here, honestly," said Kenny Reyes of Worcester.
Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebein, who has lobbied hard for the team to stay in his city, wasn't to be found Friday at City Hall. He earlier said he didn't think a final decision would come until after Labor Day.
The city released a statement Thursday night:
City officials and consultants have been in regular contact with PawSox leadership and consultants, as recently as last night and today, discussing the finer points of the financing and ballpark plans here in Rhode Island. At no time has there been any indication of a plan to move to Worcester or a suggestion of an announcement.
The PawSox leadership is currently weighing their options and the City of Pawtucket is as committed today to our partnership as we have ever been throughout this franchise’s storied 42-year history in Pawtucket.
But Grebien was nowhere to be found following the announcement. He didn't respond to calls or texts from NBC 10.
In June, Rhode Island's governor signed legislation designed to keep the team in Pawtucket. That legislation enabled the team, the state and the city to begin shopping for bonds to finance a new stadium in Pawtucket.
Under Rhode Island's plan, the PawSox would have contributed $45 million to the $83 million project and be responsible for any cost overruns. The state and the city would have been responsible for the remaining $38 million in bonds.
The team's lease at McCoy Stadium expires in 2021, and the owners have said they want a new ballpark.