With the McCoy Stadium lease expiring after the 2020 MiLB season, the Pawtucket Red Sox (Class AAA; International League) may be looking at a move outside Rhode Island, as state politicians continue to spar over public financing of professional sports facilities.
The PawSox have asked that state legislators grant the Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency permission to raise $72 million needed for the construction of a new downtown ballpark. The team would contribute $45 million toward the facility’s cost, with the state chipping in $23 million and the city paying $15 million. The proposal would lead to a new ballpark being constructed at the site of an Apex department store, with the PawSox signing a 30-year lease to play at the facility. The city would cover property acquisition, an expense that could raise the project’s cost to about $83 million not including principal and interest.
While many state Democrats expressed a general support for the PawSox, they’re stopping short of endorsing this specific plan. It doesn’t appear as though Rhode Island politicos aren’t thrilled with the notion of spending money on a professional sports team. From the Boston Globe:
Wary of a backlash against subsidizing a private business, Rhode Island’s political leaders have broken out their 10-foot poles, saying nice things about the ballpark plan but not embracing it.
Without a political intervention, the PawSox organization will become a free agent next month, and the team is expected to entertain invitations to leave Rhode Island. Where the team would end up is unknown.
“If we don’t do this, Rhode Island is going to be sorry,” said Pawtucket Mayor Donald R. Grebien, the leading political champion for the new ballpark. “We’re going to lose the PawSox and just as important, the economic development and the new revenue.”
What we do know from insiders: the PawSox ownership has been talking with other communities as an alternative should a new-ballpark plan fail in Rhode Island. One of those communities, we are told, is Worcester, Mass. Not a surprise: Worcester has been eyed by MiLB owners for years and years, even before the PawSox new-ballpark search began. It’s the second largest community in Massachusetts after Boston. The other community is intriguing: it’s a Massachusetts city bordering Rhode Island. There are advantages to this location. The team would still be serving the Pawtucket/Providence market while also keeping another MiLB team out of Pawtucket and Providence due to territorial rules.
It’s clear there’s a lot going on regarding the PawSox: it’s not every day a Triple-A team is in this position. The team has put forward what many consider to be an attractive offer, and if Rhode Island loses the team, it will be more a matter of internal state politics at play than any unreasonable demands by a professional sports team. Curt Schilling’s legacy lives on.
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