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Another Run at New Pawtucket Red Sox Ballpark Funding Plan

Pawtucket ballpark site plan

Rhode Island’s exposure in backing bonds for new Pawtucket Red Sox ballpark funding may be reduced or eliminated, as talks continue on the financial framework for a Class AAA International League facility.

Talks between Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien have been drawn out and contentious, to be sure: Grebein is working to keep the PawSox in bis city, while Mattiello has been a staunch opponent of public financing of any portion of a PawSox ballpark funding plan. The latest public plan passed by the Rhode Island Senate earlier this year, the Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency would be permitted to borrow a maximum of $85 million for the project, with the PawSox making a $33 million contribution, the state paying $23 million, and the city allocating $15 million. In addition, the team would pay $12 million after approval of the plan.

Under a framework being discussed by Mattiello and Grebien is a private sale of bonds that would drop the state funding portion to $8 million. All of this talk is preliminary, of course, and it’s not clear whether a change like this would address Mattiello’s opposition to the project. From the Providence Journal:

Spotted at the State House on Tuesday with PawSox Vice Chairman Mike Tamburro, Grebien talked about one option that would reduce the state’s potential share of the financing package from $23 million to about $8 million, with “the ownership and a private group [coming] in to buy the bonds and be responsible for them.”

Grebien declined to identify the private group, and when asked if there was agreement between city and state leaders on this piece of the financing puzzle, he said: “No. This is informal… [But] we’re pretty confident we’ve got it down to $8 million.”

When asked about this option on Wednesday, Mattiello told The Journal: “I am not going to negotiate publicly… [But] I will tell you that that is not part of anything that I am considering. So there should be no jumping ahead by anyone, assuming there is an agreement. There certainly is no agreement along those terms.”…

But he told the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday morning — and later, The Journal — that the behind the scenes discussions have produced a possible “framework that sounds intriguing if it can work, and all of the goals I have been seeking can be accomplished.” Translated: little to no taxpayer risk if projected revenues fall short, or if the team packs up and leaves in the future.

It’s hard to negotiate in an environment where the state’s house speaker can reject and embrace different positions in the course of a day, so who the heck knows where things stand. But a deadline of sorts is approaching: the end of the legislative session in June.

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