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New PawSox Ballpark Clears First Legislative Hurdle

Pawsox Ballpark at Slater Mill rendering

Public financing of a new Pawtucket Red Sox (Class AAA; International League) ballpark passed the Rhode Island Senate Finance Committee by a comfortable 8-1 margin today, but the future of the plan faces an uncertain fate in the state House of Representatives.

Senate Finance Chairman William J. Conley Jr. says he’s confident the measure will be approved by the full Senate next Tuesday, when a vote is scheduled. But the Senate is the easy part of the process, as the financing proposal faces serious opposition in the House of Representatives, according to the Providence Journal:

Before voting, the committee heard strong union support and some strong opposition from a few members of the public, including Steven Frias, the state Republican National Committeeman who came within 85 vote of beating house Speaker Nicholas Mattiello in his home district in Cranston in the last election….

Yet Mattiello has not committed to a vote on the bill. He was not immediately available for an interview Tuesday evening. His spokesman, Larry Berman, said if the bill passes the full Senate, Mattiello will assign it to the House Finance Committee for a hearing.

Whether the House committee votes, though, and sends the bill to the House floor, would be a decision that both Mattiello and House Finance Committee Chairman Marvin Abney would make together, Berman said.

The proposal 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 million, and the city allocating $18 million. In addition, naming rights revenue will be split between the PawSox and the city, rather than allowing it to be collected exclusively by the team.

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