In some corners, the idea of a new publicly-owned ballpark for the Pawtucket Red Sox (Class AAA; International League) is drawing opposition.
On Monday, PawSox chairman Larry Lucchino provided an update on the team’s ongoing search for a new ballpark. While many details remain unresolved at this point, Lucchino said that the facility would be publicly-owned, and that the team is considering one of two locations for a ballpark–an Apex department store on Main Street, and the Tidewater site.
The concept, combined with the fact that the PawSox are concentrating their search in Pawtucket, has drawn a positive reception from some, including some elected officials and Pawtucket business leaders. However, the idea of a publicly-owned ballpark with involvement from the city and State of Rhode Island has drawn backlash from others.
Rhode Island house minority leader Patricia Morgan, former Pawtucket City Council president Henry S. Kinch Jr., and David Norton, a former candidate for a state representative seat, criticized the idea. All three expressed backlash against the concept on social media after Lucchino made his remarks, and later expressed their grievances in interviews with The Providence Journal:
Norton said it doesn’t matter whether a stadium would be owned by the PawSox or the public. He said people still fear the team might eventually leave — and leave taxpayers with a shiny new stadium they can’t use.
The public needs a seat at the negotiating table, Norton said. Considering how Pawtucket voters recently approved spending about $6 million or $7 million to make repairs on the City Hall tower, Norton said a statewide referendum on whether to commit public money to a stadium is the answer.
Morgan said she has heard no State House conversations about a referendum. She’s troubled about taxpayers financing a business initiative by the wealthy ownership group that includes Lucchino.
“They’re insiders,” Morgan said. “Do we every other year have to mount a huge campaign to stop this kind of spending? It’s just unsupportable.”
Kinch keyed in on the McCoy Stadium study released in January, which compared $68 million in renovations for the 75-year-old stadium with $78 million to build a new stadium there. Kinch insisted any public money should shore up McCoy and said it’s “totally pompous” that the team wants to pick a new site.
At this point, discussions are very much in the preliminary stages, as the team has not secured a site and Lucchino did not say on Monday how much public funding would be needed for the ballpark. The study on McCoy Stadium that was released in January was conducted by Pendulum, and it expressed doubt that the McCoy Stadium site was financially viable for a renovated or new ballpark at respective estimates of $68 million and $78 million.
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