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No State Money for New PawSox Ballpark This Year: Legislators

Pawsox Ballpark at Slater Mill rendering

The Rhode Island General Assembly will not take up consideration of $23 million in state funding for a new Pawtucket Red Sox (Class AAA; International League) ballpark in this current legislative session, with leaders saying it’s too late in the process for consideration of such a big-buck expenditure.

That does not preclude a special session in the fall to address the request, nor does it eliminate the possibility of consideration in the next session. Legislators are grappling with a huge issue in 2017 — namely, how to balance the state budget — and they say that issue precludes a PawSox spending measure so close to the end of the session. From AP:

Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, a North Providence Democrat, said it’s too late in the legislative session to consider spending money on a baseball team when no one has seen the details and “we have bigger fish to fry, namely the budget.”

Democratic state Sen. Donna Nesselbush, whose Pawtucket district includes the proposed downtown stadium site, called it a “really exciting proposal” and said legislators will “have to do our due diligence and really dive in.”

But with lawmakers struggling to patch revenue shortfalls as they write a budget for the next fiscal year that begins in July, top leaders said it was too late for that due diligence.

“I think there’s a lot of consternation, especially when we have a deficit,” Ruggerio said. “We’re going to have to make some tough choices on that, and I know some people aren’t keen about giving money to millionaires.”

Of course, being Rhode Island, there are some personal politics involved, mostly directed at Gov. Gina Raimondo. She and her staff had been part of the negotiations, but she stopped short in proposing it for legislative approval. Legislators want to see her name associated with the measure.

Not including interest and principal, the project’s total cost is expected to be about $83 million when factoring in the the land acquisition cost that will be assumed by the city. If the proposal moves forward, the PawSox would sign a 30-year lease for a new ballpark that is to be constructed on the site of an Apex department store. Team officials and elected leaders have expressed their desire to see the ballpark spark additional development in the surrounding area.

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