December 19, 2017

Pawtucket mayor issues plea for preventing WooSox

Grant Welker
A new Pawtucket Red Sox stadium could be built at the Apex store site between I-95 and the Slater Mill.

The mayor of Pawtucket, R.I., is pleading with Rhode Island legislators to approve a funding deal to allow the Pawtucket Red Sox to stay in their longtime home city, instead of moving to Central Massachusetts.

Donald Grebien said at a press conference Tuesday the team will "end up in Worcester if we do not act."

"We cannot afford to watch the tax dollars go to another city and another state," Grebien said.

Worcester has been a rumored potential destination for the team, with a ballpark built on an unused parcel in the Canal District. The city and team officials have held talks, but Worcester has not finalized a plan to offer the team. Both sides have been tight-lipped through the process.

Pawtucket, meanwhile, is pushing to keep the team that has made it a household name across New England as the home of the Boston Red Sox's top minor-league affiliate.

"Rhode Islanders don't want to see yet another icon, [and a] place for families and business disappear," Grebien said, according to an announcement by the city of his remarks. "And Pawtucket cannot lose our chance to re-build our city and boost the Blackstone Valley. Now, as elected leaders, we cannot be paralyzed by the past. We have to move our great state forward. We have to act. And we have to act now."

A plan before the Rhode Island legislature would build a publicly owned $83-million, 9,500-seat ballpark near Pawtucket's Slater Mill site just off I-95.

The team would cover $45 million, which Pawtucket said would be the largest private investment in the city's history. The city would contribute $15 million and the state $23 million, with neither of those amounts including financing costs, according to a report on the project by the Rhode Island Senate Fiscal Office.

Pawtucket has said it would pay for its costs through property taxes, hotel taxes, and food and beverage taxes from the related development surrounding the ballpark, among other sources.

An economic study conducted for the Pawtucket site said the project would pay for itself through increased tax revenue and related development surrounding the park. Sports economists have regularly said that such stadium projects don't meet those expectations.

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