House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello gave some sound advice when he told the Pawtucket Red Sox to tell their story to the community, or so it would appear from their visit to the Warwick Rotary Club Thursday.
Club member Tony Bucci went into the meeting opposed to the latest stadium proposal, where the team would pick up 54 percent, or $45 million of the cost. Pawtucket would chip in $15 million and the state would cover the remaining $23 million through a 30-year bond.
What convinced Bucci, who runs an insurance agency, was that not only would the PawSox pick up a bigger share of stadium costs compared to what league teams are contributing in other communities, but that the stadium would be used for a host of community activities. It would become a resource for Pawtucket and the state. Bucci said he hadn’t considered the benefit of the public-private partnership to the City of Pawtucket and the state.
But the plan, as outlined by Dan Rea, PawSox executive vice president and general manager, also had its skeptics.
Rea said the proposed stadium, which would be built on the site of the former Apex store visible from Route 95, would serve as a gateway to the state and a catalyst for redevelopment in Pawtucket. He said that the PawSox considered its options two years ago, determining that it would cost $35 million to repair the existing stadium; $68 million to bring it up to par with what other stadiums are offering today; and $70 million to build new.
He showed pictures of other stadiums, like one built in Nashville in 2016, and what that has done for redevelopment of the city. He also outlined the anticipated tax revenues from business related to the stadium and how they would offset the added debt the state would assume.
Why, asked club member Ed Tavares, if a new stadium is such a good deal, don’t PawSox owners put all the money up themselves. He said they have the means to do it. Already, Rea answered, the owners are committed to a greater share of the cost than other minor league teams have invested in those stadiums, where the ratio average is 25 percent private and 75 percent public.
“This is the largest private commitment [to a stadium deal] to a public/private partnership,” Rea said.
His point, apart from what the owners would invest, is that this would be a partnership where both parties benefit.
And what if it is like 38 Studios and the team goes bankrupt, Rea was asked. He said the state would be protected as the league would take over the team.
So far, Rea said, the team has visited six Rotary clubs and is following Mattiello’s suggestion to gain community feedback. The plan has the approval of the governor and the state Senate but has not come before the House for a vote. Mattiello has questioned public support for the deal, citing negative feedback from his constituents. He has also said he felt the owners could be more generous with their offer.
Rea said Mattiello would meet with the PawSox, but that so far that hadn’t been scheduled.
Larry Berman, spokesman for Mattiello, said a meeting would be held shortly. He expects the issue will be addressed before the end of the legislative session.