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Pawtucket Mayor Pitches Plan B Ballpark Funding Plan

Pawsox Ballpark at Slater Mill rendering

Though it is not his preferred option, Pawtucket mayor Donald Grebien argues that his alternate funding model can cover a public contribution to a new Pawtucket Red Sox (Class AAA; International League) ballpark. 

Earlier this week, Grebien issued a call to state officials to show their support for a new ballpark in downtown Pawtucket, citing the ongoing effort by Worcester, MA to land the PawSox as a concern. In the process, Grebien argued that if lawmakers do not vote for the proposal, they should consider a Plan B for funding the project. Under his proposed Plan B, Rhode Island would allow 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.

That idea has run into some skepticism from Rhode Island Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, and Grebien is even stating that Plan B is not the preferred option. However, in a letter this week to Ruggerio and Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, the mayor cited figures that he believes support the idea that Plan B is a viable option if it is needed. More from The Providence Journal:

In his letter to Ruggerio and Mattiello, Grebien outlined revenue estimates and bond payments for various scenarios. He showed estimates by both the Brailsford & Dunlavey consultants who analyzed McCoy Stadium for the city, state and PawSox, and he showed more conservative estimates generated by the state’s Commerce Corporation during negotiations.

At the very least, his figures suggest, the city would get the state’s projected $2 million in current revenue from McCoy Stadium and $1.6 million in projected new revenue from the new ballpark. In all, Grebien said, his city could conservatively make a potential net annual profit of $3 million after paying the bonds.

But in his letter to the legislative leaders, Grebien conceded a point Ruggerio raised a day earlier in a one-on-one interview with The Journal: “This is not the preferred option, as the state receives a higher bond rating and thus the interest rate and cost of bonding would be lower for the state’s portion of the bond as the proposal currently stands.

“Nonetheless, when faced with the real possibility of all of the current tax revenue ($2 million) going to Massachusetts, the state should, rather than subsidizing a Massachusetts city, reassign that lost revenue to a Rhode Island city.”

Once the new year begins, officials are is expected to begin considering a revised ballpark plan. That bill introduced some changes to the original proposal, 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. The PawSox have previously expressed some concerns about this proposal.

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