TOM WARD - PawSox died with Mondor; it's time for us to move on

TOM WARD - PawSox died with Mondor; it's time for us to move on

Last week, the new owners of the Pawtucket Red Sox made it clear they would need financial help from taxpayers to keep the team in Rhode Island. Our leaders were given two months to give them an answer - and $120 million over 30 years - or else. Politicians have two months. I have two letters: N.O.

It is with great sadness that my choice here would be to let the team go. We've got to grow up and face the facts. The PawSox, that lovable franchise that gave us - in partnership with the City of Pawtucket - free parking, inexpensive tickets, and low-cost hot dogs and family fun, died with Ben Mondor. With the new owners, we're in the big leagues now. We can't afford them anymore, and we've got to stop pretending we're "players." We're not. We're broke.

Consider our "Economic Development" track record:

• We built the Rhode Island Convention Center, a financial loser for taxpayers from Day 1. This was over the howls of many (including this writer, pre-Breeze) who warned that convention centers were popping up nationwide, and Providence would have a hard time competing.

So what happened? It was built anyway, and in the early years stole business (home, boat, and camping shows) from the next-door Civic Center, owned by the City of Providence. So Providence, bleeding money and on its heels, sold the now-troubled Civic Center to the state (that's us - again) and we upgraded it into today's Dunkin' Donuts Center. Now we own both. And we lose $25 million on them every year.

I'm reminded of this Civic Center robbery as the new PawSox owners talk of bringing URI and Brown football to a new Providence BASEBALL field. So we're going to empty Brown and Meade stadiums and bring fans to the doorstep of Johnson & Wales, just to make the developer's numbers work? Do I have that right?

• In another ego-fueled stroke of genius, we gave away tax credits to movie studios to lure them here for filming. I recall at TV pilot being shot in Cumberland some years ago. I met staff there and was shocked at the pay one unionized man from North Carolina received for hanging wallpaper on the set. No high-pay jobs for hometown help; everybody came from someplace else, including L.A.! The economic spin-off? Nearby J's Deli sold a few more sandwiches. Politicians, however, did get to have their photos taken with movie and TV stars. Mission accomplished, dah-ling! Mercifully, the state finally pulled the plug on the tax credits.

• And then there was 38 Studios, the poster child for desperate economic development. Video games? Really? And so we all suffer with an even higher "structural deficit."

• Finally, PawSox owners don't want to pay property taxes on the stadium, either. Providence City Council President Luis Aponte said last week the city will request more state aid if the ballpark is not going to pay property taxes for 30 years. "More state aid." That's us....robbed again.

For decades, Rhode Island has done economic development like a crack addict looking for his next fix. All short term, all short sighted. Politicians buy labor happiness for two years, then rob taxpayers for 30. Some leaders behave like kittens with a shiny piece of tinsel. They keep selling us sizzle, when what we need is steak. And a Providence baseball stadium is all sizzle.

Gov. Gina Raimondo has always struck me as pragmatic. She, more than most, understands the value of a dollar - or millions of them. She told the Providence Journal last week: "The idea of a stadium in downtown Providence that can be used for multiple purposes is exciting. That said, my top priority is getting Rhode Islanders back to work, and we have very limited resources to invest in economic growth -- especially in the face of a large structural deficit."

Large. Structural. Deficit. Will she stand her ground? Our ground? If she's serious about cutting spending, isn't this 30-year boondoggle a reasonable place to start?

Sadly, it's time to move on. We'll survive. Goodbye, PawSox. And thank you, Mr. Mondor. It was a great ride!

Ward is publisher of The Valley Breeze newspapers

Comments

This is an EXCELLENT report on what's being perpetrated in Providence. It covers the ongoing controversy from every angle, including PawSox fans. Thank you so much for writing and publishing this editorial.

You did, however, miss two relevant points, both of which underscore your position so well:

1. The Convention Center fiasco financing is more than just another example of the usual cost of doing business in Rhode Island. The man behind the financing is none other than Skeffington.

2. Getting a property tax exemption requires more than just a wink and a nod from Providence City Council. Skeffington needs specific legislature redefining or repealing state law specifically prohibiting any Rhode Island municipality from offering tax breaks of this nature to lure or facilitate relocation of existing businesses from another in-state municipality, and for obvious reasons. Imagine Rhode Island with the urban core, from the state line right through Cranston aggressively competing with each other to attract existing businesses, or the suburban and rural communities offering cutthroat deals to swoop businesses right out from under current hosting cities.

Again, thanks for giving us this great editorial. Let's hope the governor, the mayor of Providence, and the general assembly read it over morning coffee.

DAN MURPHY

While I agree with Tom, I also know that type of thinking does not take place on Smith Hill. The new owners of the PawSox are big political contributors and Gina has been the biggest benefciary. If our Governor does not engage in pay to play, then other players will be more difficult to recruit.
The whole proposal is a major distraction from real economic development.

I wonder if Senator Whitehouse could weigh in on the conversation since he is the expert on climate change. Will the pitchers mound be under six feet of water by the year 2050 ?

Not only did Skeffington bring us the Convention Center fiasco, but he is also responsible for bringing “moral obligation” bonds to RI.

His deep pockets are the source of campaign contributions. How can the powers that be on Smith Hill say NO to him, when the most important thing in the world to RI politicians is their next election?

Same sentiments I posted here last week.

Great minds :)

Uncanny the parallels between this story and the conservation land our town wants to take for a safety complex. 2 months, 3 months. Rush, rush! (Before we realize what we've lost.)

JOIN THE FIGHT

Www.fightthestadium.com

I know I'm late to the party, but I'd like to chime in anyway. I'm not for or against the stadium, but there are things that should be made clear.

Having the city or state pay for the stadium in some form or another is the norm. Organizations generally don't want the asset. They usually lease the building(s). The problem with a baseball park is that it is very specific. So the days that a game is not being played, the other events need to make sense. This is unlike the Civic and Convention centers that are pretty generic.

On that note, I would also like to point to my comments a few weeks back, that the Civic/Convention centers are poorly marketed and under-utilized. It's easy to create a financial loss when you don't do your best to maximize the potential capacity. Like I noted before, Providence is a fantastic place to hold events...especially this time of year. Cheaper than Boston, less hassle than Hartford, right in the middle of both. Mohegan and Foxwoods, Gillette and Xfinity get the world class entertainment. Somehow, Providence gets overlooked.

RI voters in 2014 approved a blanket $30,000,000 for arts funding, over $3,000,000 went to Waterfire alone. Is monthly Waterfire a bigger draw than almost daily events at a new stadium? My math would think not. But, when you add terms like "baseball", "Skeffington", and "bonds", concepts instantly get skewed.

Let's be clear, Pawsox are NOT staying in Pawtucket. They are going somewhere. Is the location in Providence ideal? Probably not. Are other communities waiting for Providence to fold? You betcha.

Playing tic tac toe I looked across the board and saw that Lucchino, Matiello and Raimondo were my opponents. So far it is early in the game and the O's have it !