Rhode Island’s Senate finance committee has scheduled a series of hearings, both at the State House and statewide, to review legislation that would provide public support for a new stadium for the minor-league baseball Pawtucket Red Sox.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman William J. Conley, Jr., D-East Providence, said the process will be “open, transparent and thorough.” Conley’s district includes Pawtucket.
Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien and team owners are asking for a $23 million state commitment to help finance the Ballpark at Slater Mill, an estimated $83 million stadium project at the site of the former Apex department store downtown. The new ballpark would involve a 30-year lease.
The ballclub, a Class Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox and known commonly as the “PawSox,” have played at McCoy Stadium since 1942.
The team would pitch in $45 million -- $12 million in equity and $33 million through Series A taxable revenue bonds issued by the Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency, with sublease rental payments to be paid from PawSox rents and annual naming right payment.
State taxes, including taxes generated by ballpark users, visitors, the PawSox, ancillary development and a premium ticket surcharge would fund Rhode Island’s $23 million of bonding.
Under Conley’s bill, the state could backstop any borrowing by Pawtucket, a 71,000-population city five north of capital city Providence, should revenue shortfalls occur. He also said linking Pawtucket’s roughly $15 million in borrowing through the state would reduce bonding costs, given that Rhode Island’s credit is stronger than Pawtucket’s.
A previous iteration of the bill stalled in the legislature. Team officials scuttled a $120 million proposal to relocate the franchise to Providence two years ago.
Gov. Gina Raimondo, a Democrat, said she supports the new version.
Rhode Island’s Senate has established a website as a public repository for pertinent documents on the stadium proposal. Video of all hearings will be uploaded to the site. Anyone wishing to submit comments to the committee may do so through the website.
Hearings will begin at 6 p.m. on the following dates: Sept. 14 at Rhode Island State House, Room 313; Sept. 26 at William E. Tolman High School Auditorium, Pawtucket: Oct. 3 at University of Rhode Island Swan Hall Auditorium, Kingston; Oct. 11 at New England Institute of Technology, East Greenwich; Oct. 12 at Roger Williams University School of Law, Bristol; and Oct. 19 at Bryant University, Smithfield.
An economic analysis that Brailsford & Dunlavey Inc. compiled for the team and Pawtucket officials said the Apex site would bring more economic benefits to Rhode Island and Pawtucket than the old Tidewater coal gasification plant property.
B&D projected the Apex site to generate $36.5 million in economic activity to the city and $93.3 million to the state on a 30-year net present value basis. It projected the Tidewater site to generate $24.4 million and $71.4 million, respectively.
City officials in Worcester, Mass., have expressed interest in relocating the franchise should negotiations with Rhode Island fall through. Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty and other officials last month took PawSox owner and former Boston Red Sox president Larry Lucchino on a tour of a presumed stadium site in the city’s Canal District.
Rhode Island Republicans, meanwhile, oppose spending public funds on the project.
“How did we in Rhode Island get stuck with such a bunch of fools on Smith Hill?,” said state GOP Chairman Brandon Bell.
“I have a trade proposal: Massachusetts can have the PawSox and our State House leadership, and we’ll take Massachusetts’ lower taxes and better schools.”