With details on a new Pawtucket Red Sox (Class AAA; International League) ballpark being hammered out, we could see a Rhode Island House of Representatives vote before this season’s June 22 adjournment.
Nailing down an agreement acceptable to all sides — the governor, the General Assembly, the city and the PawSox — continues to be an ongoing task, with the PawSox withholding any public statements on the latest plan. That takes the state out of the business of backing bonds issued to fund the project, shifting that burden to a TIF district set up by the city. All in all, under the terms of a deal worked out by Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien, among others, calls for the Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency to borrow a maximum of $85 million for the project, with the PawSox making a $45 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. Now, there are some downfalls to this plan, as the total cost of borrowing could increase by as much as $25 million without the state backing the bonds.
But these are just the broad outlines of a deal: the devil is in the details, and the details still need to worked out. And with the PawSox withholding any commitment from the deal (and with an ace in the hole: an ongoing offer from Worcester, Mass. officials to move the team there), there certainly will be lots of drama in coming weeks before the session ends. From the Valley Breeze:
Leaders at both the state and local level are emphasizing that this is the most critical juncture yet for a stadium proposal that will likely shape the future of Pawtucket, one way or the other. If no enabling legislation is passed before the end of the 2018 session, it’s anyone’s guess as to what will happen to the city’s minor league baseball team. A proposal is on the table from officials in Massachusetts to move the team to Worcester….
“I have been reluctant to move forward with prior versions of the deal because of the risk to the state’s taxpayers,” said Mattiello in a statement. “This alternative envisions segregating revenues generated in a new (TIF district) to ensure that revenues from the project will be directly tied to the debt payments, and the project will stand or fall on its own.”
The bonds issued by the Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency to support the project will be paid back from revenues generated in the district including the team’s lease payment, states the proposal. The state would contribute the same amount as it would have lost if the team moved out of state. But importantly, the state will not ultimately be responsible for these bonds if the deal doesn’t pay for itself, stated Mattiello and his aides. The debt will be more expensive without the state’s backing, but that is the trade-off to remove taxpayer 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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