At a recent event, Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker signaled his support for Worcester’s ongoing effort to land the Pawtucket Red Sox (Class AAA; International League).
With the team seeking a new ballpark to replace McCoy Stadium, Worcester has entered the mix as a possible destination for the PawSox. Though the club has a proposal on the table for a new ballpark in downtown Pawtucket, Worcester officials continue to explore the possibility of constructing a facility in the city’s Canal District.
It seems that any effort in Worcester could have the backing of the state’s governor, as Baker used a Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce event on Friday to show his interest in participating in a new ballpark project. He did not specify an exact dollar amount involved in the state’s potential investment, but Baker’s announcement prompted Pawtucket mayor Donald Grebien to urge Rhode Island lawmakers to move more swiftly in support of the PawSox’s Pawtucket proposal. More from The Providence Journal:
“We’ve basically told the leaders at the PawSox and frankly, a lot of the locals, that we’d be willing to work with any site that they deemed appropriate, and I do know that the folks from Worcester have put together a pretty compelling package,” Mr. Baker said, although noting that the administration would assist were the site in Worcester or any other community. “Our message to Worcester and to the PawSox is that as they develop that proposal, we’re interested in participating.”
Reacting to Baker’s remarks, Pawtucket Mayor Donald R. Grebien urged Rhode Island lawmakers to move more quickly to keep the team in Pawtucket. Rhode Island Senate President Dominick Ruggerio said late last month that lawmakers here would not vote on a stadium financing package until January, but Grebien says that could be too late.
“Rhode Island needs to take the bat off its shoulder and swing,” Grebien said in a statement.
“It’s no surprise that Massachusetts sees this valuable investment and the development that will happen with this ballpark. This is why Rhode Island’s mayors, businesses, residents, chambers of commerce, labor and state leaders have been clear that the PawSox belong in Pawtucket, Grebien said. “We have one of the strongest deals in recent history on the table now, ready to be signed, ready to put cranes in the sky and Rhode Islander’s back to work, ready to revitalize Pawtucket’s downtown, ready to keep our beloved PawSox in Rhode Island for generations to come. We cannot afford to once again be labeled as the state that can’t get out of its own way.”
Under the plan that is being floated in Pawtucket, the PawSox would pay $45 million ($12 million upfront, the rest paybacks on money borrowed by the Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency), Rhode Island would pay $23 million (with Pawtucket committed to paying the money back), and the city would pay $15 million toward an $83-million ballpark project. Rhode Island officials have been debating the financial merits of the proposal, and previously called for an analysis of the team’s finances to determine its ability to participate in the project.
Conducted by Rhode Island auditor Dennis E. Hoyle, a recent analysis found the team’s finances to be stable, but noted some factors that will shape its ability to pay its portion of the ballpark project. Among them are the PawSox’s potential selling of new ballpark naming rights, as well as a surge in attendance. More from The Providence Journal:
Hoyle, who performed the analysis at the request of Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio, said the PawSox’s ability to make lease payments and cover their portion of construction costs would also depend on “the potential sale of naming rights …”
Hoyle revealed his findings on the stadium deal Monday. At the same time, the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation’s head of investments, Jesse Saglio, gave his conclusions following his own review, agreeing that the team’s finances are stable.
“While the team currently generates modest positive cash flow,” wrote Saglio, “material new financial liabilities … would require additional cash flow … beyond what the team currently achieves … ”
A new debt-service payment “appears to be supportable from a cash-flow perspective” based on “the team’s anticipated attendance increase” and its “operating assumptions,” says the letter that Saglio submitted to legislative leaders after his review.
In Pawtucket, the ballpark would be constructed as the site of an Apex department store. Proponents have argued that it would boost private investment in the area, and in turn generate more revenue for the city. The PawSox’s lease at McCoy Stadium expires in 2020.
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