January 9, 2018

PawSox $83M stadium deal moves forward in R.I. legislature

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

The Rhode Island Senate Finance Committee voted 8-1 on Tuesday to pass along an $83-million ballpark deal for the Pawtucket Red Sox for approval by the full legislature, as the Red Sox' Triple-A affiliate is in separate talks to move the team to Worcester.

The team has engaged in long discussions with Worcester city and business officials about possibly partnering to build a stadium at the vacant Wyman-Gordon site in the Canal District, but the team and Worcester officials have stayed mum on the details of those conversations.

A Worcester deal, however, is not out of the cards, according to the city. In a prepared statement, City Manager Edward Augustus said the city continues to have conversations with the PawSox "on an ongoing basis."

The team, meanwhile, has expressed its optimism about a new stadium deal in Pawtucket at the Apex store site to replace the aging McCoy Stadium.

The proposal, according to the legislation, would have the team putting up $45 million with the city and state contributing $15 million and $23 million, respectively, for a stadium at Slater Mill, an underdeveloped commercial property.

In a statement, the PawSox said the organization looks forward to the next step in the legislative process - a vote of the full Senate on Jan. 16.

The public comments at the committee's Tuesday hearing were a mix of sentiments on the plans. Those who are firmly against the public stadium cited the public funding nightmare of former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling's 38 Studios and terms of the deal that put the city and state at risk. Those in favor said Pawtucket needs a win these days.

State Sen. Elizabeth Crowley, a co-sponsor of the bill, said the city is going through a trial with Memorial Hospital due to close.

"We don't need to lose the Red Sox," Crowley said.

There has also been talk of global toy manufacturer Hasbro leaving Pawtucket as well, said co-sponsor State Sen. Donna Nesselbush.

"Pawtucket needs an injection of economic development," Nesselbush said.

Other lawmakers and speakers in favor of the deal noted the amount of public time spent on the legislation, the lengthy vetting process and December revision requiring the team to put up the first $12 million in equity.

That revision would transfer half of the revenue from naming rights to the city, a projected $250,000 annually, according to the legislature.

If the project costs more than $83 million, the team will foot those costs. If the construction comes in at less than $83 million, savings will be distributed at a pro-rata basis to the team, state and city at rates of 46.5 percent, 32.4 percent and 21.1 percent, respectively.

The proposal requires the construction of 50,000-square-feet of ancillary real estate and a $275 penalty for each day the ballpark is open without substantial completion on the ancillary space.

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