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Ruggerio: Plan B for PawSox Ballpark Funding Questionable

Pawsox Ballpark at Slater Mill rendering

A recently released Plan B for funding a new Pawtucket Red Sox (Class AAA; International League) ballpark does not appear viable, according to Rhode Island Senate President Dominick Ruggerio.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Pawtucket mayor Donald Grebien urged state lawmakers to show their support for a proposal to build a new PawSox ballpark in the city’s downtown. Grebien, who expressed his concerns over Worcester, MA’s ongoing effort to land the team, also raised the possibility of what was described as a Plan B funding option. In the event that state officials do not vote for the proposal, Rhode Island allow an alternate plan that allows the city to collect all state income and sales tax revenue that is generated at the ballpark. That would effectively allow Pawtucket to cover the public share on its own.

Ruggerio, who emphasized that state lawmakers plan to begin discussing ballpark legislation in early January, expressed doubts that Plan B would work. While noting that he had not had an opportunity to review the proposal, he explained some of the difficulties the city could encounter by attempting to cover the public contribution without the state’s help. More from The Providence Journal:

Under that scenario, the city alone would raise – and use the state tax revenue – to pay the annual borrowing costs on the $44 million public subsidies the team is seeking which currently includes: $18 million from the city and $26 million from the state plus interest.

“Actually, I don’t think that can happen,″ Ruggerio said of Grebien’s “Plan B.”

The Senate president questioned whether the city could secure anywhere near the same bond rating — which is critical to the cost of borrowing — as the state’s “AA,″ without the state as a backstop. He also questioned how the bond-rating agencies would view the city’s attempt to shoulder that much of a financial load on its own.

“I just don’t see that as being a viable alternative at this point in time,” he said.

Revised legislation was recently released and delivered some significant changes to the plan, including language that allows the Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency to borrow a maximum of $85 million for the project. In that scenario, the PawSox would make a $41 million contribution, with the state paying $26, and the city allocating $18 million. The reworked bill also calls for naming rights revenue to be split between the PawSox and the city, rather than allowing it to be collected exclusively by the team.

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