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Mattiello Backs Revised PawSox Ballpark Bill

Pawtucket Red Sox

After opposing a Senate version of the proposal, Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello is backing a revised funding plan for a new Pawtucket Red Sox (Class AAA; International League) ballpark. 

Earlier this year, the Rhode Island Senate gave its approval to a bill that would fund the facility. In that legislation, 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.

Mattiello had criticized that legislation for putting too significant of a risk on state taxpayers, and has spent the last several months calling for a new proposal. While it has not been approved, a revised funding framework is set to be considered during a House Finance Committee hearing on Thursday. The revised funding plan resembles the Senate version in terms of cost-sharing, but effectively eliminates the state backstop that would cover any potential shortfalls. More from The Providence Journal:

Of the $83-million ballpark price tag, not including borrowing expenses, the team would cover $45 million, the state $23 million and Pawtucket $15 million. The team would spend $12 million upfront, with the remainder financed in bonds issued by the quasi-municipal Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency, which would own the stadium and lease it to the state to sublease to the city.

But unlike the Senate version, which required the General Assembly to make appropriations to cover any shortfall between revenue and bond payments on each of the sets of bonds, Mattiello said he intends to remove that state guarantee. Only new tax revenue generated in and around the stadium, and set aside in a tax increment financing arrangement, will be used to pay off the public portion of the bond payments.

“If revenue comes up short, the Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency will have to figure out how to deal with it,” Mattiello said.

Taking the state backstop out of the financing plan will cost more, he acknowledged, as bond-holders will demand a higher interest rate to compensate them for higher risk.

The proposed ballpark has been slated for the site of an Apex department store in downtown Pawtucket, where proponents have argued that it would be a catalyst for development. For the PawSox, the ballpark has been floated as a replacement for McCoy Stadium–the oldest active Class AAA facility in Minor League Baseball.

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