Proposed Pawtucket Stadium Deal Hits A Snag
The development of a new ballpark to replace Pawtucket's McCoy Stadium hit a snag on Wednesday when the Rhode Island Senate nixed any chance of reviewing the team's plans until the fall legislative session.
“Should legislation be forthcoming, I am not opposed to reconvening in the fall to consider it in a deliberative and public manner," Senate president Dominick Ruggerio told the Providence Journal. "Obviously, we are looking to focus on the budget . . . and I think it’s a little too late in the game right now to take up a subject of that magnitude and that importance."
The PawSox and the city of Pawtucket last week introduced their plan for a new ballpark in the Slater's Mill section of the city. Under that plan, the stadium cost would $73 million to build, plus an additional $10 million to acquire the land. The team would pay 54 percent of that cost, the city would pay 18 percent and the state 28 percent. Considering interest, the total cost over the 30-year lease for the proposed stadium would reach roughly $158 million.
On Wednesday, International League president Randy Mobley said that he viewed the day's news as neither a positive nor a negative, but rather just another twist in the team's years-long saga. The proposal, he said, is still the same. Only the timetable has changed.
"I don't think the proposal has changed in any way. It's just a matter of when the legislature is in a position to consider the contents of that proposal as it relates to the state's potential contribution to the construction," Mobley said. "So I think the latest developments are that, it's now been said that there's not a way to work that discussion into the time that's remaining in this particular legislative session. Not that it won't be discussed as it is, but it won't be discussed as it is at this time."
Naturally, the news has sparked renewed speculation that the team might leave Pawtucket if it can't get a new stadium. As recently as 2015 the team seemed set to move to Providence. Providence mayor Donald Grebien seemed so certain of the move that he announced on a local radio show that the team planned to move into a new, privately financed that would have been built over the following three years.
A minority stake in the team was sold to a group headed by the Red Sox just prior to Grebien's announcement, and that new group also put out a public call to the team's fans to help them move the club to Providence. Instead, the team continued with its initiative to seek other options in Pawtucket, which has resulted in the current stadium proposal.
Rhode Island governor Gina Raimondo on Wednesday said that she hopes and believes the team will stay in Pawtucket for both the short- and long-term.
"I hope they stay. There's no reason that they should leave," she said in a video posted to the Providence Journal's website. "Let's give this some time and do the right thing for Rhode Island."
Mobley echoed the governor's sentiments, and added that he believes things will get worked out to the point that the team will stay in Pawtucket, even if it takes a little longer than anticipated.
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The deal signals the end of Pawtucket’s long-running relationship with professional baseball, which dates back to the 1970s.
"We're not anywhere near the finish line, and things can happen," he said, "but I am optimistic that good things will happen in time. I know how hard the ballclub has been working at this, and I know that the relationship with the city of Pawtucket remains good, and it's a bit disappointing that it might not be able to be considered at this time, but that doesn't by any stretch mean that it won't be."