An artist's rendering of a new school building adjacent to McCoy Stadium.

Farewell to McCoy Stadium? – David Brussat

by David Brussat, Architecture Here and There, contributing writer, commentary

We attended the farewell fireworks for McCoy Stadium last night, dubbed “The Final Inning.” Did not get there in time to secure the wrist bands that would have assured us a seat on the playing field to watch the fireworks. But we got a nice space on the lawn next to the fire house and settled into our lawn chairs to watch the explosions. Which naturally set us to thinking about what might be next for McCoy.

Apparently, the city thinks the field should be knocked down and replaced by a complex that would bring together under one roof the aging Shea High School on East Avenue, built in 1938, and Tolman High School on Exchange Street, built in 1926. And maybe the art high school across the street. In for a dime, in for a dollar, right? Why not? Pawtucket voters gave a big thumbs up to the idea, approving a bond issue of $330 million last year, and images are already available to show us what the school might look like. Some forms of the renderings that have been done reminded me of Tom Wolfe’s description of the typical new high school attended by students today: “a building that looks like a duplicating-machine replacement-parts wholesale distribution warehouse.”

No wonder our students are doing so well around the nation. Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations!

(Both Shea and Tolman are beautiful buildings, however, which suggests, as one would think, that there are more factors involved in our education crisis than the disappearance of beautifully designed schools.)

A better idea would be to let billionaire Stefan Soloviev, age 48, rehab McCoy and acquire a baseball team to play there. His land development firm, called Crossroads Agriculture, based in Colorado, Kansas, and New Mexico, is worth $2.3 billion, according to Forbes magazine. He is said to be the 26th largest landowner in the United States.

Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebian says McCoy is off the table. No, it is not. But if not McCoy, let Soloviev build his own stadium where the city still envisions a soccer stadium near the Apex site, although that plan has run into financial difficulties (allegedly now resolved).

And the city should abandon the idea of putting two or three schools on one site at McCoy. To call that an awkward proposal for a city like Pawtucket would be to shame the word awkward. The $330 million proposed for that idea would serve to lovingly restore Tolman and Shea, which is admittedly in pretty bad shape. There would be enough left over to finance a major hunk of the city’s share of Soloviev’s project – if such a share were necessary.

The one question that remains is whether the Pawsox – now called the Woosox, or something like that – might be induced abandon what I hear is an uncomfortable situation in Worcester to return to Rhode Island.


To read other articles by David Brussat:

My freelance writing and editing on architecture and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat, Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy, [email protected], or call (401) 351-0451.


  1. Michael Pompili on September 6, 2023 at 12:46 pm

    Copying and pasting the comment I left on the original post on David’s blog:

    David, this is a beautiful tribute to McCoy, Shea, and Tolman, and an excellent critique of what the City wants to give us to replace all three.

    The voters of Pawtucket already approved a $119.4 million bond in 2018 to restore Tolman and Shea, a process which was to have begun in June 2021. Shea was vacated at the end of the 2020-21 school year in preparation, with tens of thousands of dollars of supplies discarded. With contractors already ready to go, RIDE in June 2021 rejected the City’s plan for accommodating students while each school was closed for two years- everyone in the other school, 9th graders full time, 10th through 12th graders on alternating virtual days. The plan was scrapped and the central high school at McCoy was born out of the City having no imagination for any other option, with the students stuck in the crumbling, unrenovated buildings throughout the five year process of constructing the new school.

    The central high school is a poor choice for so many reasons – the loss of McCoy stadium; the concentration of 2,000 students from two schools with overburdened administrations to one school with an exponentially more overburdened administration; siting the school so that a miniscule proportion of the student body is close enough to walk or bike; the fact that McCoy Stadium is literally built on a pond, which might be OK for a concrete grandstand but probably isn’t for a large building intended to serve the City for generations, especially in the face of planning for climate resiliency.

    The good news is that Stefan Soloviev’s proposal to save the stadium is due in to the City in the coming weeks, and it sounds like they might actually consider it. Meanwhile, we all need to show our support for saving it.

    Sign the petition-
    E-mail the mayor- [email protected]

  2. David Brussat on September 6, 2023 at 1:12 am

    Thanks to all of these commenters for their interesting thoughts. Mr. Shallcross makes some very interesting points about the distribution of resources, including the ability to field football and other sports teams. A commenter elsewhere notes that Pawtucket voters passed a bond issue of more than $100 million to repair Shea and (possibly) Tolman. Combining these schools under one roof is a very poorly concieved idea, probably generated by a mayor who thinks he might look good killing two birds with one stone, and thumbing his nose at a billionaire into the bargain. Not a good idea for a city as poor as Pawtucket.

    • David Johnson on September 6, 2023 at 1:45 am

      If buys the McCoy that’s money for Pawtucket every year instead of going after home owners mayor doesn’t worry about he the richest guy in Pawtucket

  3. W.David Shallcross on September 5, 2023 at 5:27 pm

    Absolutely ridiculous and poorly planned. Using last year’s enrollment figures a proposed and combined single school would have more than 2016 students. All educational planners would deem that as too large to manage effectively and efficiently. Further, while the district would likely benefit financially, the students would lose access to far too many opportunities. Think just one team in each sport would deny half the current athletes an opportunity to compete, and similar loses would be experienced across the board in most areas. Too many students would be denied opportunities typical of most high schools and the school department would likely increase class sizes when just the opposite seems appropriate for both the existing schools today. Transportation costs would skyrocket, and as a former principal I can say, school bus schedules dictate a lot more than one would realize. What they propose for McCoy is a community decision but condensing educational opportunities should not be on the table for discussion.

  4. Kelli Nash on September 5, 2023 at 3:41 pm

    Mccoy Stadium brings people and money to Pawtucket. If it can generate income then allow it to re main an attraction. Is it possible to build the new unified high school on the Memorial Hospital site? School St and Prospect St could handle all the traffic from the high school.

    • Nancy Thomas on September 5, 2023 at 3:56 pm

      Ooh, using Memorial Hospital site is a thought that has not been brought out. TY for that.

  5. Debby Forget on September 5, 2023 at 3:01 pm

    Please leave MaCoy alone. There are plenty of places to put a school. In the years that it has been there it was always full of people that love the game. Please do the right thing and leave it alone.

  6. Tina on September 5, 2023 at 1:56 pm

    Leave McCoy stadium alone let Stefan do what he wants to do to McCoy there is plenty of other parcel of land to build on come on Mayor do the right thing

  7. Robert Brennan on September 5, 2023 at 11:59 am

    Great story. You hit the nail on the head. Build the new school on the apex land . Mccoy is built on a dump and old lake. I was a contractor and built commercial buildings near the stadium ground not good.