'Entirely different' stadium proposal from PawSox

'Entirely different' stadium proposal from PawSox

State investment in PawSox stadium to be paid back; city also 
putting money up

PAWTUCKET – Officials from the Pawtucket Red Sox, city of Pawtucket, and Rhode Island Commerce Corp. have announced a deal on a financing plan for a new stadium at the landmark Apex Department Store site.

The team is calling the plan “entirely different from the 2015 Providence proposal” that caused such an outcry. Unlike that proposal two years ago, where the team offered to absorb $17 million of the cost of a Providence stadium, or 20 percent, the 2017 version has the team paying $45 million, or 54 percent, of the cost for land and development.

The cost of acquiring the Apex property and developing a stadium is expected to hit $83 million. Unlike the 2015 proposal, the team says it will pay for 62 percent of ballpark construction as well as all construction overruns.

The team is asking for $23 million from the state and $15 million from the city of Pawtucket, though those amounts are still not set in stone. The state’s portion of that would be “self-sustaining and self-supporting,” said officials this week, as revenue from the stadium and surrounding development would pay it back over time, “ensuring no new tax burden on Rhode Island taxpayers.”

It wasn’t immediately clear where the city portion of the funding would come from, but officials said Tuesday they wouldn’t need to go to local voters to approve a bond.

The public would own the ballpark and land, continuing a 75-year practice, and the Red Sox Triple-A affiliate would pay the highest rent in the International League, increasing rent in 2020, when the park is set to open, to $1 million, with annual increases after that.

The plan which would likely need approval from the General Assembly and Gov. Gina Raimondo and could be tweaked as talks proceed.

"I've always believed the PawSox belong in Pawtucket, and my highest priority regarding any state involvement in a ballpark is to protect Rhode Island's taxpayers," said Raimondo in a statement. "The ballpark proposal that the city of Pawtucket and the team has put forward appears to pay for itself, and I credit Mayor Grebien and the PawSox for listening to Rhode Islanders and coming up with a radically different proposal than two years ago. I believe it merits a full public vetting as part of the legislative process."

The plan is already drawing some opposition, particularly from Stop the Stadium Deal group.

“The ownership group’s plan seems to be little more than trying to pretend that they aren’t asking for a gigantic mountain of public money—and hoping that Rhode Islanders are stupid enough to buy it,” said Sam Bell, chairman of the group. “The only lesson they seemed to have learned from their previous failed bid is to try to misrepresent what they are actually doing.”

The announcement from the three entities Tuesday came a week after the team released results of a study showing a projected $130 million in fiscal benefits from a new stadium at Apex over 30 years.

“We have all reached agreement on a proposal to present,” said Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien, who called the proposal “an unprecedented deal” for the city and state. “After collaborative discussions and extensive negotiations,” he said, “it is time to widen the circle and bring this proposal to the governor and state legislature for their consideration and approvals.”

The $45 million from the PawSox ownership group would represent the largest private investment in Pawtucket’s history. It’s also the largest private investment in the history of publicly owned Triple-A ballparks.

The proposed public ballpark would “grow the economy, add jobs, attract business, and keep one of Rhode Island’s most important businesses – the Pawtucket Red Sox – in Pawtucket for an additional 30 years,” according to the team.

A new rendering released for a “Ballpark at Slater Mill” shows a slight shift in position for the stadium, with the facility now covering the current George’s Games property and home plate now pointing away from the river and Slater Mill. More parking is available next to the stadium.

The project would be part of a larger downtown redevelopment project in Pawtucket. It commits to a public facility with year-round uses.

“It will be more than a ballpark,” said PawSox Chairman Larry Lucchino. “It will be a city park, open year-round.” The stadium could have football in the fall, hockey in winter, concerts in the summer, and joggers every day when the team is out of town, he said.

“Virtually everything” about the proposal is different from 2015, said Grebien.

“There were two strikes and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, and we were down to our last breath of hope and faith,” he said. “Now we are on the verge of completing one of the greatest comebacks in baseball history – and it includes the largest private investment in our city’s history.”

Grebien said he “can’t say enough” about how the PawSox have stepped up their game.

Though the overall cost estimates from 2015 to 2017 are similar, at $85 million two years ago and $83 million now, there are numerous differences, including public ownership, the state assuming 28 percent of the funding burden instead of 80 percent as proposed in 2015, taxpayers seeing positive revenue, and the state no longer issuing the bonds. They’ll instead be issued by the Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency.

As part of the proposed agreement, club owners who live in or have separate businesses in Rhode Island will voluntarily donate potential PawSox distributions or dividends to three Rhode Island charities, including the Pawtucket Foundation, Rhode Island Foundation, and/or the PawSox Foundation.

From a baseball standpoint, the new stadium, with capacity for 9,000 to 10,000 people, would have Fenway Park’s playing dimensions, feature high-tech innovations, and maintain affordable pricing.

“And importantly, it will take the franchise from financial uncertainty to stable financial condition, and make the professional baseball business sustainable in Rhode Island for the long-term,” said Lucchino.

The “McCoy Stadium” name would likely disappear, as the team is touting revenue from naming rights going to the state.

A poll done by Fleming & Associates, commissioned as part of the discussion process, found that 68 percent of Rhode Islanders would support a new ballpark if they knew that it would pay for itself through tax collections generated at the park and other payments.

A total of 74 percent of respondents said it is important for the PawSox to stay in Rhode Island.

The new park represents Pawtucket’s opportunity “to bring life to an entire downtown,” according to the team. From a state perspective, it would be a “magnificent gateway to Rhode Island,” located within a mile of the state’s border and right next to Route 95, where 170,000 vehicles pass each day.

PawSox Vice Chairman Mike Tamburro, who has been with the club 43 years, said he couldn’t be happier with the agreement.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I envision a day when we could make such a commitment in time and such a commitment in dollars,” he said. “Just as Ben Mondor saved the day 40 years ago, this plan saves the day for the next 30 years,” added Tamburro.

In its announcement, the team notes that the public paid 100 percent of the costs when the existing McCoy Stadium opened in 1942.

When the stadium was renovated in 1986, the public paid all of those costs, and in the partial renovation of 1999, the public paid 75 percent of those costs.

Over the past decade, the public has borne an average of 72 percent of the costs for publicly owned minor league ballpark projects.

Comments

Let the Paw Sox and the Red Sox pay for this ! We do not need another 38 studios ! If this is such a great deal why do the owners need TAX PAYER money ! Keep your hands OUT of MY pockets !

Tom..How can you compare 38 Studios & PawSox? 38 Studios turned out to be a fly by night operation. PawSox are rock solid and have been a RI institution for more than 40 years. Why not give them the benefit of the doubt? I do not think they will be going under any time soon.

I do not see the need for this project. If the billionaire pawsox owners think this is such a great idea they should take the money out of their own pockets.

Remember this is a organization that signed Rusney Castillo to a 75 million dollar contract to play for a minor league team. Some have said this player is the biggest bust in baseball.

Maybe Rusney should pay for it.

this looks like a great deal. we need the paw sox here in this city. keep them.

AMEN !