ARLENE VIOLET – Has any pro studied soccer plan?

ARLENE VIOLET – Has any pro studied soccer plan?

Nobody could wish a great result for the proposed $400 million redevelopment of downtown Pawtucket more than me. I must, however, point out a few problems with the cheerleading done by state and local politicians. These issues must be addressed. Otherwise, the state is about to sink in at least $70 million to $90 million to an enterprise it has barely studied.

Face it. The state doesn’t have the expertise to vet high-profile projects. The landscape is scattered with ruins. It isn’t just the 38 Studios fiasco, the UHIP burgeoning costs, the Fane Tower, the proposed 20 year, no bid, $1 billion contract with LGT, and the recent PawSox proposal among others, which all document the folly of officials. It is ironic that after singing the tune that the PawSox deal was the next best thing since sliced bread the Pawtucket mayor and others are now dissing it as being inferior to the new deal on the table from the newest suitors.

The new folks want to build a 200-room hotel with an indoor sports event center, apartments, 200,000 square feet of office space, and infrastructure which includes a pedestrian bridge over the Seekonk River to their spanking new $45 million, 7,500 seat soccer stadium, the lynchpin of their plan.

Query whether the state of Rhode Island has even commissioned an independent study of the viability of a USL soccer stadium where an established MLS franchise, New England Revolution, bankrolled by the Krafts, located one-half hour down the road in Foxboro, can compete? Shouldn’t at a minimum the state study this issue? There were other proposals for the Pawtucket land that were shunted aside for this one.

It’s not enough to say that the state will try to shift the responsibility to the developers if all goes bust.

At present, McCoy Stadium might be headed for demolition (no doubt on the public’s dime) so iron-clad documents have to be drawn up to protect the taxpayers, something that wasn’t done with PawSox owners. If any part of the new project is incomplete, who bears the risk?

Then there are the issues of the looming impact on existing residential and office space as well as entertainment dollars with which a stadium competes. Will there be a cannibalization? When the Narragansett tribe wanted a casino, the Providence Performing Arts Center led the cacophony of protests, arguing that it and the restaurants downtown would suffer adverse financial impacts.

Has the state, the Rhode Island Commerce Corp. or Pawtucket leaders looked independently at these factors?

It is easy for some politicians who are term limited like in the case of the governor to sing “Hallelujah” and pat themselves on the back because, if predictable problems arise, their fingerprints won’t be on it since they are long gone.

House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello wants expiation for the PawSox departure even though he made the correct decision. His legacy should continue to be looking out for taxpayers.

So … before we start posing names for the new soccer team, let’s take a breath and study it with experts. Draw up agreements with experts who protect the public in case Murphy’s law is at work.

I’ll root for the home team if these steps are taken. Otherwise, it is another Hail Mary pass by pols looking to burnish their own names at the expense of taxpayers.

Violet is an attorney and former state attorney general.