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Early response to Providence ballpark plan: Negative

New Providence ballpark

A presentation by Pawtucket Red Sox (Class AAA; International League) owners to a government commission on a proposed Providence ballpark didn’t yield much enthusiasm for the plan, but PawSox owners say the discussions are just beginning.

A meeting of the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission was the first public discussion of the proposed Providence ballpark, a downtown project on the waterfront. The current financial plan call for the PawSox owners to buy the land formerly used for I-195 (hence the commission meeting) and build the $85 million ballpark on their own dime, paid back with an annual $4 million net payment from the state. Increased economic activity generated by the ballpark and surrounding development would defray $2.4 million of that cost to the state, say the team owners.

But early feedback to the plan from the commission was pretty negative, per the Providence Journal:

“The financial arrangement that is proposed by the team’s ownership involves a substantial public investment, yet the proceeds for profits from the stadium primarily return to the owners,” Pryor said. “The important question to ask is whether there might be an alternative financial arrangement that might be more fair and might enable taxpayers to feel less of the burden.”

Azrack said: “I think our goal is to come up with — if there is a deal worth doing here — it is to come up with one that has the lowest cost of capital for the state … and an equitable sharing between the sponsors and the state and the city.”

In a statement, Governor Raimondo said: “It appears that Rhode Island taxpayers would pay most, if not all of the cost of building the new stadium, yet the owners would stand to receive all of the profits. That isn’t fair for Rhode Islanders.”

That there’s opposition to the ballpark isn’t a surprise: the politics of Rhode Island can be a little treacherous, and things aren’t always what they appear to be (i.e., Buddy Cianci). The state is struggling with homeless and affordable-housing issues, complicated by an eroding tax base.

Still, PawSox principal owners James Skeffington and Larry Lucchino say they want to negotiate a ballpark plan acceptable to all, and the first proposal is just a place to begin the conversation:

“No one ever thought this was going to be a one-shot process … take it or leave it,” Lucchino said….

Lucchino said the PawSox owners must share their vision of the ballpark with Rhode Islanders.

“This is not just a ballpark for the Pawtucket Red Sox,” he said. “It’s unique in the sense that it has a great site and a great possibility for multiple uses. … You don’t usually find a site that is so proximate to the heart of downtown, and you don’t usually find so many collegiate activities that have such a demonstrable need to share a facility like this.”

Meanwhile, a local group is pushing for an alternative ballpark site elsewhere in South Providence: a former plating-company site with desirable views of the post-industrial area and a total lack of parking and land for development. Not quite sure this is going to get the attention of the PawSox owners.

RELATED STORIES: PawSox present alternative financial deal for new Providence ballpark; New Providence ballpark renderings unveiled; The final days of McCoy Stadium?; PawSox sale closed; move to Providence next; Pawtucket: We want to keep PawSox; Pawtucket Red Sox sold: Reports

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