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PawSox Ballpark Financing Plan Passes RI Senate; Next Stop, Governor

Pawtucket ballpark site plan

A Pawtucket Red Sox (Class AAA; International League) ballpark financing bill was passed last night by the Rhode Island Senate and sent to Gov. Gina Raimondo for her approval, but it’s not clear that it will be embraced by PawSox ownership.

The measure, which passed by a comfortable 24-6 margin, was a compromise measure crafted by Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, removing the state as a guarantor of the bonds issued for the project, And while the new bill was a political winner, it does have the effect of significantly raising the price of the project, both in base costs and financing costs due to higher interest rates. From the Providence Journal:

Minutes before the bill moved toward the Senate floor, a financial analysis from Treasurer Seth Magaziner’s office showed Mattiello’s changes to a version the Senate passed in January would increase the total cost, including fees and interest payments, by as much as $87 million over 30 years. The Senate bill would have cost $147 million compared with $201.5 million in the most optimistic estimate of the bill passed Friday or $234.2 million under more pessimistic assumptions, according to the Treasury figures.

Before voting on it around 11 p.m., senators Friday railed against the higher costs of the House bill, which would remove the state backstop to ballpark construction bonds, and compensate investors with higher interest payments….

The Treasury analysis released late Friday said the annual cost to the city and state of the bill the Senate passed in January would have been $2.3 million a year, while the version headed to Raimondo’s desk is estimated to cost between $3.1 million and $3.7 million per year.

All of this action comes without a commitment from the PawSox and a ballpark site. The city will need to negotiate with the owners of the former Apex department store in downtown Pawtucket or use eminent domain to acquire it, and the PawSox will need to evaluate whether it makes economic sense, as there are other suitors for the team (i.e., Worcester). A statement from the team didn’t go one way or another: “We saw this proposed legislation for the first time only this morning, so it would be premature to comment further without having studied its terms and ramifications. We will continue to work with the City of Pawtucket to see if this new proposal is feasible, viable, and permissible.”

Under the current plan, the PawSox would make a $41 million contribution, with the state paying $26 million and the city allocating $18 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 eventually released his revised bill.

If approved, the proposed ballpark would be constructed at the site of an Apex department store in downtown Pawtucket. The PawSox have been searching for a replacement to McCoy Stadium, the oldest active Class AAA facility in Minor League Baseball.

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