The project to build the stadium began in 1938 and was championed by then-Pawtucket Mayor Thomas P. McCoy. It was to be built on a swampy piece of land known as Hammond’s Pond and, to this day, the stadium sits at the end of Pond Street. On the afternoon of November 3, 1940, Mayor McCoy laid the foundation cornerstone.
The stadium was completed in 1942, and in 1946 was officially dedicated and named in honor of Mayor McCoy. McCoy Stadium first began hosting affiliated Minor League Baseball in 1946. The Pawtucket Slaters, a Class B affiliate of the Boston Braves, was the first team to call McCoy Stadium home. The Pawtucket Slaters would play for 4 seasons in the New England League, as Braves affiliates.
Professional baseball disappeared from Pawtucket for 16 years. It finally returned in 1966 as a member of the Eastern League. McCoy Stadium still hadn’t found its true team yet and hosted the Double-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, the Pawtucket Indians. After 2 years, the Indians moved to Waterbury, Connecticut. McCoy was again without a team.
In 1969 the Boston Red Sox came to scout McCoy Stadium. By April 1970, the Sox had pulled their minor league affiliate out of their home in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. They moved into McCoy Stadium, where they remain today, and became known as the Pawtucket Red Sox. The franchise would spend three years playing for the Double-A Eastern League before being promoted to the Triple-A International League.
In 1976, debt-ridden owner Phil Anez threatened to move the team to New Jersey, but sold the franchise to Marvin Adelson, who lost the ballclub after threatening to move to Massachusetts. During that year, the team was briefly known as the Rhode Island Red Sox, but that name lasted just one season. Just before the 1977 season, Canadian expatriate businessman Ben Mondor arrived to resurrect the fallen franchise, and the PawSox have thrived since then. Mondor owned the team until his death on October 3, 2010, and was a well-beloved member of the community, as he has turned the ballpark and franchise into one of the most fan-friendly in all of professional baseball.
The PawSox have brought two championship titles to McCoy Stadium and Pawtucket, winning the Governors’ Cup, the championship of the International League, in 1973 and 1984.
One of the unique features of the ballpark is the expansive foul territory. The ballpark is a complete semicircle, and in order to fit the baselines in between the ends of the seating areas, the area behind home plate is quite vast. McCoy may have the largest foul territory of any ballpark in minor league baseball.
The two dugouts are actually embedded into the wall underneath the grandstands (as are the luxury boxes, just beyond them). The first row of seats is elevated eight feet above field level. This has led to a unique fan-friendly tradition of McCoy Stadium. Those seeking the signatures of the next great BoSox players have found a way to contact their PawSox, despite the fact that the dugout configurations and height would normally keep would-be autograph seekers at bay. Fans wishing to have a scorebook, baseball, baseball card, or other souvenir signed by a player will go autograph "fishing". Complete with hook and reel (or, often, a hollowed-out milk jug and a rope), autograph seekers lower their items over the front of the seats and dangle them down in front of the dugouts below. The ballplayers can sign the item, tug on the line, and the fan pulls up their newly autographed memorabilia.
A series of murals depicting notable former PawSox players was displayed in the stadium prior to the 1998 renovation, but was taken down since the new stadium configuration resulted in fans not passing them anymore. In 2004, after many fans asked what happened to them, funds were made available to restore and re-hang the old murals, as well as commission a few new ones of more recent players. Some six dozen paintings now adorn the entrance ramps throughout the stadium.
The left-field berm provides great views of the action, and affords families on a budget an inexpensive way to enjoy the ballpark. Above the berms are walkways, affording patrons 360-degree views of the ballpark. They are made especially for the handicapped from which to utilize and enjoy the game.
For many years, McCoy Stadium was not up to International League standards. The park had only 6,000 seats, was barely handicapped accessible. There were also a number of broken seats, and the facility was starting to show structural issues in the mid 1990s. For several years, the team’s ownership was unsure of what to do, and it was even announced that the PawSox might be moved to Worcester, Massachusetts.
Eventually, owner Ben Mondor announced that they would renovate the facility, and that renovations would be done to maintain the historical integrity of the ballpark. The renovations began in 1998 and included a new terraced berm in left field, a grassy knoll where fans can sit next to the PawSox bullpen and watch the game up close.
The seating capacity was increased to 10,031 by adding three full sections of seats. In addition to the original quarter-circle seating bowl, McCoy now features an extended left-field line seating area and souvenir stand, as well as outfield bleacher seating and new parking areas. Luxury boxes were constructed below the new seating area at field level. All seats are now accessed through an entry tower near third base, instead of the circular ramps which still remain behind home plate. The seats are elevated above the field, and patrons must climb two sets of stairs (or take an elevator) to reach the main concourse and outfield berm areas.
With the renovations to the stadium, the Pawtucket Red Sox have raised attendance exponentially. The PawSox have raised their daily average from 700 per game to over 7,000, with weekend games having standing room only crowds.
Although the renovations have helped rejuvenate the team, McCoy is now the oldest and still one of the smallest stadiums in the International League.