Lucchino tabs fa­mil­iar face for new ball­park

Janet Marie Smith brought into the fold as PawSox look ahead

Woonsocket Call - - Front Page - By BREN­DAN McGAIR bm­c­gair@paw­tuck­et­ See PAWSOX, page A2

PAWTUCKET — For Larry Lucchino, a cel­e­bra­tion com­mem­o­rat­ing the 25th an­niver­sary of Ori­ole Park at Cam­den Yards seemed like the per­fect oc­ca­sion to talk shop with a near and dear for­mer col­league.

Turn­ing on the charm in Bal­ti­more – nick­named the Charm City – shouldn’t have been too dif­fi­cult a chore. Lucchino had col­lab­o­rated pre­vi­ously with Janet Marie Smith on two prior ball­park-re­lated ven­tures that couldn’t have proven to be any more dif­fer­ent.

From those ca­sual con­ver­sa­tions last month in Bal­ti­more, a re­union was born with Smith, once

again lend­ing her eye for de­sign to a project spear­headed by Lucchino.

Late last week, the Pawtucket Red Sox an­nounced that Smith was com­ing aboard as an ad­viser to the club’s plan­ning and de­vel­op­ment sec­tor. Join­ing forces once more with Lucchino – chair­man of the PawSox – seemed a fore­gone con­clu­sion as re­cent as last Au­gust, when Smith tossed a cer­e­mo­nial first pitch at McCoy Sta­dium. Nearly one year later, a se­quel has given way to a tril­ogy.

“Hav­ing worked with Larry twice be­fore, there’s no learn­ing curve,” Smith said in a phone in­ter­view. “I feel like I can jump right in and have a di­a­logue with him and the strong team that’s in Pawtucket about their fu­ture.”

Smith’s ar­rival comes at a time when the PawSox stand at in­trigu­ing crossroads, the eu­pho­ria of lay­ing forth plans for a new Pawtucket-based ball­park giv­ing way to a ques­tion­able fu­ture where the club now finds it­self in the po­si­tion to pro­tect it­self in the event a deal with Rhode Is­land can­not be struck.

There’s no mys­tery when it comes to Smith – a self­de­scribed “ball­park junkie” – work­ing with Lucchino. For a por­tion of the Ma­jor League Base­ball road race that Lucchino has run in, Smith was right there, stride for stride.

A Mis­sis­sippi na­tive who presently re­sides in Bal­ti­more, Smith first col­lab­o­rated with Lucchino in 1989 in help­ing to rein­vig­o­rate Bal­ti­more’s In­ner Har­bor with the ad­di­tion of Cam­den Yards. She once again joined forces with Lucchino in Bos­ton in 2002, and again served as a valu­able ally in the pur­suit to pre­serve and en­hance Fen­way Park.

Over a 10-year pe­riod, fea­tures both small in stature and highly no­tice­able, such as seats atop the Green Mon­ster and plac­ing turn­stiles on Yawkey Way, were made. Smith’s fin­ger­prints were all over ev­ery­thing, yet what helped in mak­ing sure those afore­men­tioned projects saw the light of day was the co­op­er­a­tion the Red Sox re­ceived.

“Peo­ple of­ten use short­hand to say we ren­o­vated Fen­way. There were also ma­jor additions, but gov­ern­ment played a huge role,” Smith said. “We couldn’t have done the things we did with­out the neigh­bor­hood or city say­ing, ‘In or­der to keep the Red Sox at Fen­way, we’ve got to think dif­fer­ently our­selves.’”

Lucchino’s in­ter­est in get­ting Smith on­board with the PawSox in some ca­pac­ity was piqued upon learn­ing she had been ap­pointed by Yale Univer­sity’s School of Ar­chi­tec­ture as the Ed­ward P. Bass Dis­tin­guished Vis­it­ing Ar­chi­tec­ture Fel­low for the Fall 2017 se­mes­ter. Those firm teach­ing plans for Smith to be in the New Eng­land area un­til Christ­mas set the wheels in the mo­tion that if need be, she was a mere short train or car ride away from Pawtucket and McCoy Sta­dium.

“I told Larry about the work I would be do­ing at Yale and he told me about the tri­als and tribu­la­tions of com­mit­ting to a new home for Pawtucket,” Smith said. “The ge­o­graphic prox­im­ity from New Haven to Pawtucket makes it much more achiev­able than if I was try­ing to work in yet an­other time zone.

“I’m ex­cited about the chance to learn about the mi­nor leagues,” Smith added. “It’s good just to stay chal- lenged in other worlds.”

The chance to be a pro­fes­sor at Yale and lend a help­ing hand with the PawSox was made pos­si­ble due to her work load be­ing lighter in her full­time role with the Los An­ge­les Dodgers as the se­nior vice pres­i­dent of plan­ning and de­vel­op­ment. She joined the Na­tional League club in 2012, and just like in Bal­ti­more and Bos­ton, she’s left an in­deli­ble mark. In a ca­reer filled with crown­ing achieve­ments, she counts the ren­o­va­tions last off­sea­son to the Dodgers’ fa­cil­ity in the Do­mini­can Repub­lic as one that gives her a strong sense of sat­is­fac­tion.

Smith was granted per­mis­sion to aid the PawSox by Dodgers pres­i­dent/part-owner Stan Kas­ten.

“No tam­per­ing in base­ball!” she said with a laugh.

Given Smith’s key in­tel­lect for ball­park de­sign, her true role with the PawSox may re­main un­der wraps un­til the fran­chise es­tab­lishes a clearcut di­rec­tion. She did join sev­eral mem­bers of the Pawtucket front of­fice that re­cently took a field trip to a per­spec­tive ball­park site in Worcester.

“It was a pre­lim­i­nary look, but se­ri­ous,” Smith said. “I think Larry’s feel­ing was that when you get 10,000 post­cards and you have no com- mit­ment, you have to take those other in­vi­ta­tions se­ri­ously.

“It’s clear to me that Larry has a huge amount of fond­ness and re­spect for Pawtucket. The first goal was to make that work, but we’ll see,” Smith con­tin­ued. “None of us have a crys­tal ball.”

Look­ing at the pro­posal for a PawSox ball­park to be sit­u­ated on the Apex depart­ment store land, Smith said, “I can un­der­stand why the PawSox were so ex­cited about be­ing part of Pawtucket’s revitalization and trans­for­ma­tion. I think that’s one of Larry’s hall­marks in base­ball. Whether you’re look­ing at Bal­ti­more, Bos­ton, or San Diego, he has al­ways made a com­mit­ment not just to the base­ball team but to where the base­ball team calls home – how the ball­park can be used to lift up a neigh­bor­hood or an en­tire re­gion.

“It’s al­ways con­tro­ver­sial whether there should be pub­lic dol­lars used to en­tice a long-term com­mit­ment for a sports team. What the PawSox have tried to show Rhode Is­land is that their pro­posal for a ball­park at the Slater Mill site can pay off for Pawtucket and the state. The im­pact is more than resid­ual. It’s di­rect.”

Smith has al­ready met the big­gest sup­porter for a new PawSox ball­park in Pawtucket, Mayor Don­ald Gre­bien.

“He’s fab­u­lous,” Smith said. “He has great en­ergy and a good spirit. He cer­tainly has his fin­ger on the pulse when it comes to Pawtucket’s in­ter­ests.”

Aweek be­fore the PawSox made her role with the club of­fi­cial, Smith was in the stands for a mid­week day game at McCoy Sta­dium. Her mind started to race with pos­si­bil­i­ties as she watched the fans en­joy them­selves.

“I think it’s al­ways in­struc­tive to get to know the con­stituency that you’re work­ing with,” Smith said. “I don’t think I have been to a ball­park where I didn’t find some­thing that I loved.”

No ques­tion, those ob­ser­va­tions were re­layed to Lucchino, a per­son who Smith has been known to bounce off an idea or two.

Louri­ann Mardo-Zayat/lmzart­

Janet Marie Smith, left, will once again join forces with Larry Lucchino on a ball­park ven­ture, this time in a ca­pac­ity with the PawSox. Here, Smith gets ready to throw out a cer­e­mo­nial first pitch prior to a game at McCoy Sta­dium.

Louri­ann Mardo-Zayat/lmzart­

Janet Marie Smith throws out a cer­e­mo­nial first pitch prior to a game at McCoy Sta­dium. Smith was brought on as an ad­viser with the PawSox as the team looks to build a new sta­dium.

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