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Pawtucket Mayor Calls for Support for PawSox Ballpark Plan

Pawsox Ballpark at Slater Mill rendering

During a press conference on Tuesday, Pawtucket mayor Donald Grebien called on state lawmakers to signal their support for a new Pawtucket Red Sox (Class AAA; International League) ballpark. In doing so, the mayor stressed his concerns over Worcester, MA’s ongoing pursuit of the team. 

Recently, the Rhode Island Senate Finance Committee released a revised bill on a new downtown Pawtucket ballpark that would replace McCoy Stadium as the PawSox’s home. Within the legislation included some changes from previous plans, including a split of ballpark naming rights proceeds between the City of Pawtucket and the PawSox, and language that allows the Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency to borrow a maximum of $85 million for the project. Officials are not expected to vote on the proposal until January, but the PawSox have already publicly stated that they have some concerns about the bill.

Meanwhile, Worcester is continuing to consider the possibility of constructing a new ballpark to lure the PawSox. Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker recently threw his support behind the endeavor, and leaders from the PawSox reportedly met with Worcester officials as recently as last week. That was on Grebien’s mind as he delivered his pitch on Tuesday. More from WPRI:

During a noon news conference, Grebien warned that losing the PawSox to Worcester is a real possibility.

Worcester has expressed interest in bringing the team to the city and officials there have had several meetings with team leaders including PawSox Chairman Larry Lucchino, most recently last week. But no details about what Worcester might offer the team have been released.

The Senate Finance Committee earlier this month released amended legislation that asks the team to make financial and other additional commitments in exchange for up to $44 million in taxpayer financing for a new $83-million ballpark. PawSox leadership expressed concern about the changes but said they’re still looking over the bill.

Grebien’s plea comes a day after Gov. Gina Raimondo also urged state lawmakers to get a deal done.

Thus far, Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello has been among the key state officials to express doubts about financing for a new PawSox ballpark. In a recent story in The Providence Journal, he was quoted as saying “There are some situations and economic projects that are so significant and so important for the public that sometimes you have to pull the public along. I would say the airport expansion is one of them. This is not that impactful a project. I mean, if you look at McCoy, there is not a lot of development around it.”

While calling on lawmakers to get behind a new PawSox ballpark, Grebien also delivered an alternative financing plan that could be employed if state officials do not vote on the plan. In that funding scenario, Rhode Island would allow the city to collect all state income and sales tax revenue that is currently generated at McCoy Stadium and effectively allow Pawtucket to pay the public’s share on its own. More from The Providence Journal:

Otherwise, Grebien warned, the state will likely lose all that revenue anyway to Worcester, whose efforts have intensified to lure the team over the state line to Massachusetts.

Grebien said he doesn’t think it will come to Plan B, but the city is prepared if it must do so. He said he thinks both houses of Rhode Island’s legislature will ultimately vote to approve the current proposal.

In the Pawtucket ballpark proposal that was released earlier this year, the team would pay $12 million upfront. The Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency would also borrow a total of $71 million that would be paid back by the PawSox ($33 million), state ($23 million), and the City of Pawtucket ($15 million). The team’s ballpark search has intensified over the course of 2017, as it seeks a long-term replacement for McCoy Stadium, where its lease will expire after the 2020 season.

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