PawSox Finally Unveil Financing Plan for New Stadium, $38M Windfall for Owners

Wednesday, May 17, 2017
GoLocalProv News Team

PawSox owners, elected officials -- and mascots -- were on hand at Tuesday's announcement in Pawtucket
After a failed effort to build a stadium in Providence in 2015, the PawSox ownership unveiled their plan on Tuesday for a project costing upward of $83 million -- or more.  

GoLocal unveiled that the present ownership group of the proposed site -- which is the former Apex site-- and the former owners are locked in litigation over indemnification relating to an estimated $6.4 million in hazardous material clean up costs. It is unclear if the proposed plan includes the cost of remediation.

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For the owners of the PawSox -- a "who's-who" of some of the richest men in America, the proposed deal would provide subsidies to nearly half of the project cost. The ownership group includes Florida residents and former Rhode Island CEOs Terry Murray (formerly of Fleet Bank) and Tom Ryan (the former CEO of CVS). Collectively, the owners of the PawSox have personal wealth in the range of $8 to $10 billion.

Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien said on Tuesday, “We have all reached agreement on a proposal to present. After collaborative discussions and extensive negotiations over the past several months between and among the City, the PawSox, and the Commerce Corporation, it is time to widen the circle and bring this proposal to the Governor and the State Legislature for their consideration and approvals.  Without doubt, we are writing a new chapter in the history of Pawtucket. Virtually everything about this proposal is the opposite of where we were two years ago.  Back then, the PawSox were all but gone.  There were two strikes and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, and we were down to our last breath of hope and faith.  Now, we are on the verge of completing one of the greatest comebacks in baseball history—and it includes the largest private investment in our city’s history.

But the deal and the site raise questions and some immediate opposition.

Renderings -- and teeshirts from the PawSox -- were on hand at Slater Mill for the event.
According to court documents, the land is laced with contaminants, ”Zargo (an entity tied to the existing landowner) and entities have become aware of liabilities, title issues, environmental conditions and safety issues (among other things), which include but are not limited to hazardous/toxic substances (including but not limited to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, arsenic, and lead), toxic materials, and underground waste oil tanks on the Real Estate (collectively, the 'Claims'), all of which are covered by the Agreement’s indemnity provisions.”

Opposition Emerges

“The ownership group’s plan seems to be little more than trying to pretend that they aren’t asking for a gigantic mountain of public money—and hoping that Rhode Islanders are stupid enough to buy it,” said Sam Bell, Chair of Stop the Stadium Deal. “The only lesson they seemed to have learned from their previous failed bid is to try to misrepresent what they are actually doing.”

"The largest give-away in the deal is that the new stadium would be entirely owned by the public. That means that the stadium will pay absolutely no taxes, just a rent that is far below what the taxes would be. Given a commercial tax rate of 3.361%, the unpaid taxes would work out to slightly more than 100% of the value of the stadium over the 30-year time window," said Bell. "They are asking for a free stadium in unpaid taxes alone.”

House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan took to Twitter and fired off a series of criticisms of the proposed deal, "Pawtucket is using backdoor lease to state to transfer financial responsibility to all RI taxpayers. Similar to convention center. Lousy deal," she Tweeted. "Where is Pawtucket going to get $5mm for PawSox infrastructure improvements? Need $ to repair schools 1st. [Taxpayers] not bottomless. Priorities."

According to the PawSox group, "The PawSox would pay $45 million, the largest private investment in the history of Pawtucket...the minority investment by the State of Rhode Island would be paid back by revenues that are generated by the ballpark and the ballclub, enabling the project to proceed with no new taxes or increases in tax rates. The project will effectively pay for itself from the revenue that it generates.  Taxpayers also will be protected by the PawSox, who will take on all ballpark construction cost overruns."

The project is now being dubbed, “Ballpark at Slater Mill.”

PawSox Plans

“It will be more than a ballpark,” said PawSox Chairman Larry Lucchino.  “It will be a city park, open year-round.  It could have football in the autumn, hockey in the winter, concerts in the summer, and joggers every day when the team is out of town.

“I could not be happier with this framework of an agreement,” said PawSox Vice Chairman Mike Tamburro, who has been with the club for 43 years.  “Never in my wildest dreams did I envision a day when we could make such a commitment in time and such a commitment in dollars." 

“Pawtucket has a unique opportunity to use the drawing power of a ballpark to serve as a catalyst in the redevelopment of our city,” Grebien said.  “It is a special opportunity in time we don’t want to miss.  This proposal that we have agreed upon is fair, and a $45 million private investment for a publicly-owned ballpark is unheard of.  The PawSox will pay the majority of the cost for a year-round facility that belongs to us—the people of Pawtucket.  Plus, they will pay cost overruns.  This is an unprecedented deal."

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