A request to see the Pawtucket Red Sox (Class AAA; International League) financial books could end up dooming a potential ballpark deal, as team owners debate whether to provide the data.
The PawSox owners have already provided the Rhode Island Senate Finance Committee and the state with a balance sheet and other financial data, but have not yet opened up the team books in totality, including profit-and-loss statements. That, apparently, won’t be enough as the committee debates a financing plan that includes $71 million in bonding (including $38 million from city and state taxpayers; the rest would be paid back by the PawSox owners). The rationale from Senate Finance Committee Chairman William Conley: senators on the committee, as well as some city officials, need more proof that the team is solvent and can back the public bonding. This is out of the ordinary, as the state Commerce Corporation usually handles this level of vetting. From RIPR.org:
“Normally, the Commerce Corporation conducts a financial review and assessment of a company’s financial viability prior to moving forward with an agreement,” Finance Chairman William Conley (D-East Providence) said in a statement Thursday, referring to the state economic development agency. “Because this protocol was not followed, our committee has been working with the team since August to gather and vet this information, while recognizing the proprietary nature of the disclosure.”
“Several weeks ago we offered an arrangement by which the team would disclose necessary financial information to the Office of the Auditor General, which would assess the financial stability of the team as a partner to the proposed ballpark, subject to a non-disclosure agreement,” Conley continued. “Discussions are ongoing, however, the committee will not move forward without this necessary information.”
It doesn’t sound like the PawSox want to release that level of data, per a statement released by the team:
“The Team has endeavored to provide the Committee with as much financial information possible without disclosing sensitive proprietary information,” the PawSox said in response to a requested profit and loss statement. “The materials submitted accurately paint a picture of the Team’s financially stable but somewhat stagnant and challenging current business model at McCoy Stadium, and the Team most recently shared a consolidated balance sheet that we think adds specificity to this picture. In thinking about possible returns in a new ballpark, the Committee is encouraged to refer to the sustained success seen by teams in new ballparks across the league.”
Without the information, Conley says his committee will not move forward with a vote on the financing plan — a stance echoed by Gov. Gina Raimondo, per the Providence Journal:
Raimondo said: If the private owners of the Pawtucket Red Sox want upward of $38 million from city and state taxpayers to build a new ballpark, they should provide lawmakers with more details on their finances.
Otherwise, she said, they should pay for the new stadium on their own.
WPRO host Gene Valicenti asked Raimondo if lawmakers have a right to see more detailed profit-and-loss statements than the PawSox owners have been willing to provide House and Senate committees.
Raimondo said: “If they want the state to be their partner, they can’t hide anything from us. That’s sort of part of the deal. And if they don’t want to, then, fine. Finance it on [your] own.”
Really, it doesn’t sound like there’s a place for compromise: either the PawSox owners pony up the data, or the state will quit considering the bonding.
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