With an undisclosed offer from Worcester and a revised funding plan approved by the Rhode Island General Assembly, the Pawtucket Red Sox (Class AAA; International League) will face a big decision about the team’s future in coming days.
It’s no secret that PawSox owners have been talking about a new ballpark with Worcester, MA officials, but these talks have been highly secretive. Worcester City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. has been charged with negotiations with the PawSox, but the terms of any Worcester offer has been strictly kept under wraps, according to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette:
Few details of the Worcester deal have leaked out but sources on both sides say that it is better for the team financially than the Rhode Island proposal. Even Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien has conceded the financial high ground to Worcester, saying that the key to keeping the PawSox in his city is proving that there is more “value” in their long-established connections with Rhode Island.
Unlike Rhode Island, there are no more questions to answer in the Worcester deal and the state is providing substantial support. Any agreement will not require legislative approval, only a vote of the City Council that last year authorized Augustus to do what he had to do to attract the team.
The PawSox say they need time to review the bill passed Friday, but if their destination is Worcester, and the goal is to have a new ballpark ready for occupancy by 2021, then city negotiators would want a commitment from the PawSox so work can begin as quickly as possible.
The General Assembly went ahead and changed the terms of a funding bill crafted to keep the PawSox in Pawtucket. In the process, state guarantees backing the bonds were removed, driving up the costs of borrowing money. Notably, the PawSox management was noncommittal about the plan after the General Assembly approval, issuing a statement that further study was needed by the team. Under the Rhode Island legislation, 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.
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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