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Senate Panel Holds Final PawSox Ballpark Hearing

Pawsox Ballpark at Slater Mill rendering

On Tuesday, a Rhode Island senate committee held what is slated to be its final hearing on a proposed Pawtucket Red Sox (Class AAA; International League) ballpark.

Over the last several weeks, committees at the state level have been weighing the financing plan for a new PawSox ballpark. The facility, if constructed, would be situated at the site of an Apex department store, a location where officials are hoping it can help to bring economic activity to downtown Pawtucket.

The Rhode Island Senate Finance Committee hearing on Tuesday was heavily focused on the funding aspect of the plan, particularly the question of whether the City of Pawtucket will be able to pay its $15 million contribution toward the project. As has been proposed, the $83-million project would include a $45-million contribution from the team ($12 million upfront, the rest paybacks on money borrowed by the Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency), $23 million from Rhode Island (with Pawtucket committed to paying the money back), and the $15 million from the city.

Various ideas to address the city’s contribution were discussed throughout the hearing, and Pawtucket officials discussed a plan for the city to fulfill its obligations. More from The Providence Journal:

Earlier in the night, senators asked Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien and City Commerce Director Jeanne Boyle to delve into how the city would meet its obligations.

Boyle said city payments could be made in early years from money set aside in a capitalized-interest account from bond proceeds. She said the city could also assess a fee on property near the stadium so some additional money would flow into the city’s general fund right away.

But seeking more options, Sen. James A. Seveney pinpointed that the legislation says money from a surcharge on premium tickets (in corporate suites, for example) might help the state pay off its $23-million contribution. But as it is written, the legislation doesn’t allow that for the city’s payments.

“Maybe that should be in yours,” Seveney said, to which Grebien responded: “We’d gladly take that. Having said that, it was very difficult negotiations.”

From here, it is expected that the committee will meet sometime next month to vote on reworked legislation for the project. The PawSox are pitching the new ballpark as a replacement for McCoy Stadium, where their lease will expire after the 2020 season.

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