Moore: “If You Build It” Didn’t Work in San Diego

Monday, October 02, 2017
Russell J. Moore GoLocal MINDSETTERâ„¢

State Senator Donna Nesselbush could learn from San Diego's fail.
Pawtucket State Senator Donna Nesselbush should ask San Diego officials how her "if you build it they will come" economic theory is working out for them. 

I'm sure she won't though, because she wouldn't like the answer.

Let's also add Governor Gina Raimondo, along with Nesselbush, to the group who should take a look at the cautionary tale that is San Diego and Petco Stadium, which is located there and built at great expense to the taxpayers.

That's because when the ownership group of the Pawtucket Red Sox revealed their plan to construct a new stadium in Pawtucket earlier this year, on the site where the old Apex building is located, Governor Gina Raimondo expressed support for the plan, saying that it seemed to “pay for itself."

Study History, Please

San Diego learned the hard way to take what Lucchino promises as a grain of salt. That's because, as President and CEO of the San Diego Padres back from 1995 until 2001, Lucchino spearheaded an effort to construct a new stadium there and he hoodwinked San Diego the same exact way he appears poised to pool the wool over our collective eyes. (When I say "our" I mean our leaders like Nesselbush, who is, for some reason, enamored with Lucchino.)

The team and other supporters promise? You guessed it. Taxpayers wouldn’t be on the hook to support the stadium because it would “pay for itself”.

How’s that working out? Not so well, actually. (What a surprise.)

The City of San Diego is forking over roughly $14 million dollars per year to pay off the cost of the bonds that financed the stadium. Development from around the stadium was supposed to pay off those costs. I think Nesselbush would be surprised to learn that that hasn't happened. 

Promises, Promises

A leading San Diego blog, called “The Voice San Diego”, reported in 2015 that the plan’s big promises failed to materialize.

“Former city manager Jack McGrory, who helped push for a downtown ballpark in the mid-’90s and later led the Padres’ efforts to usher in downtown commercial development, said the current arrangement isn’t what the Padres envisioned. The deal was supposed to pay for itself,” the article states.

That’s almost precisely the same argument that the Pawtucket Red Sox are making right now. We all know it’s nonsense.

Make no mistake about it: If a new Pawtucket Red Sox stadium is constructed, the taxpayers will be paying for it, and dearly.

When the average person asks for a loan, or goes to the bank with a business plan, the bank makes sure that they collect as much information as possible. Past performances are a good indication of future results. So why aren’t we talking about the track record of ballfields and stadiums and how they’ve been eating away at precious tax dollars?

Economic Fairy Tales

The folks in San Diego, however, learned their lesson. A new proposal that would have built a new stadium for the NFL’s Chargers, would have forced the city to raise its hotel tax significantly to pay for the deal.

The people of San Diego went to the polls and shot the deal down. The team has left town, and relocated to Los Angeles. The San Diego residents thought it was better that the Chargers fleece someone else besides themselves. Imagine that?

That’s why it was heartening last week when House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello mentioned that he would be open to the idea of a voter referendum to decide on whether we should help multi-millionaires pay for their new playground. It will be interesting to see if the state Senate follows suit.

One gets the impression that the state Senate doesn’t care about how the Pawtucket Red Sox stadium deal is paid for, just as long as it creates jobs for the Laborer’s Union. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a desire to create jobs for Rhode Islanders. Lord knows, we need them desperately.

Will We Ever Learn?

But the state taxpayers need to be protected. If we’re going to spend money, it makes sense that we get the best possible return on our investment. Aren’t we better off spending our money helping the needy, educating our youngsters, and rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure?

Average folks learn from their mistakes. Smart people learn from the mistakes of others. Idiots don’t learn.

Which are we going to be? Are we going to learn from San Diego’s mistake in dealing with Lucchino? Are we going to learn from our own 38 Studios mistake? Or, are we just idiots who just keep making mistakes?

Don’t answer that. It’s too painful.

Russell J. Moore has worked on both sides of the desk in Rhode Island media, both for newspapers and on political campaigns. Send him email at [email protected]. Follow him on twitter @russmoore713.

  • 1938-1942

    Depression Era Public Works

    The stadium's construction was started in the midst of the Great Depression as a public works project.

    The champion of the project was then-Mayor Thomas P. McCoy. After World War II the building was named in honor of McCoy.

    PHOTO: RI Historical Society
  • 1990s

    Pawtucket Power Brokers Deliver Millions for Rehab

    The demands for public money is not new. In the mid-1990’s, the PawSox under the ownership of Ben Mondor leveraged an offer by Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld to build a $40 million public stadium in Worcester, MA to lure the PawSox to central MA.

    In response, then-Speaker of the House John Harwood and House Finance Chair Tony Pires — both of Pawtucket to realize a total rehab of about $18 million. Mondor provided a reported $4 million dollars to the project to rehab the state owned facility.

  • November 28, 2014

    PawSox To Be Sold To Some Red Sox Owners.

    According to a report in The Boston Globe, The Pawtucket Red Sox will be sold to part of the Red Sox ownership group. The price and names of the owners purchasing the minor league franchise is not yet known. 

    For the full story click here. 

  • January 10, 2015

    Leaders Make the Case for PawSox to Stay in Pawtucket

    Support is mounting from city and local sports industry leaders to make a case for keeping the 2014 league champions at McCoy stadium, which it has called home for over 40 years.  

    For the full story click here. 

  • January 12, 2015

    Raimondo’s First Test, Keep The Pawsox in RI

    Days into the Governorship of Gina Raimondo and she’s already tasked with a tall order—find a way to keep the Pawtucket Red Sox where they belong—in Pawtucket.

    For the full story click here. 

  • February 24, 2015

    City Council President Aponte “Excited” at Prospect of PawSox Coming to Providence

    City Council President Luis Aponte reacted with excitement Monday at the prospect of the Pawtucket Red Sox moving into Providence.

    For the full story click here. 

  • February 24, 2015

    Pawtucket Mayor Says PawSox Move is “Devastating”

    Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien confirmed to GoLocalProv that the new owners of the Pawtucket Red Sox plan to move the team out of the city.

    For the full story click here.

  • February 24, 2015

    New Owners Don’t Rule Out Public Funding For New Providence PawSox Stadium

    The new ownership group of the Pawtucket Red Sox hasn’t ruled out using public financing to fund their proposed new stadium in downtown Providence, according to comments made by new principal owner and team president James Skeffington.

    For the full story click here.

  • February 26, 2015

    Jencunas: Providence PawSox Stadium - Boon or Bust?

    GoLocal contributor Brian Jencunas writes, “the proposed move of the Pawtucket Red Sox to Providence is either the next Providence Place Mall or the next 38 Studios.”

    For the full story click here. 

  • March 2, 2015

    The Ten Biggest Questions Facing the PawSox Coming to Providence (Slideshow) 

    If the new ownership of the Pawtucket Red Sox want to build a new stadium in Providence, a number of questions need to be answered.  The potential for a major contruction project in the state's Capitial city touches upon a number of issues, from money, to politics, to jobs, and development.

    For entire slideshow click here. 

  • March 2, 2015

    David Brussat, Dr. Downtown: The Red Sox and the PawSox

    GoLocal contributor writes David Brussat writes that his “heart says stay, but “stay in Pawtucket” may mean “leave Rhode Island” unless it means “move to Providence.”

    For the entire article click here. 

  • March 2, 2015

    Moore: Will PawSox Move be a Sweetheart, Insider Deal?

    GoLocal contributor Russell Moore explains that, “if you think that the shrewd, savvy, group led by renowned Rhode Island political insider James Skeffington and Red Sox boss Larry Lucchino bought the Pawtucket Red Sox without the framework of a deal with the state in their back pocket, I've got a video game business idea I'd like to pitch to you.” 

    For the entire article click here.

  • March 4, 2015

    City Councilors Make Pitch for PawSox to Come to Worcester

    Worcester City Councilors Gary Rosen and Phil Palmieri proposed that the city of Worcester makes a pitch for the Pawtucket Red Sox, or another Major League Baseball-affiliated team, to move to Worcester.

    For the entire article click here. 

  • March 5, 2015

    Bishop: Keeping the Pawtucket Red Sox Without Seeing More Red in Providence

    The Speaker of the House seems to have rushed to judgment, favoring the move of the Pawtucket Red Sox to Providence and decrying critics as unduly pessimistic and unwilling to see us invest in ourselves. 

    For the full store click here. 

  • March 10, 2015

    RI GOP: $450 Million Spent on Convention Center Red Flag for PawSox Deal

    Members of the Rhode Island House Republicans are warning about "lessons learned" from the Rhode Island Convention Center lease agreement that has cost the state nearly a half billion dollars over the last twenty years, as the new owners of the PawSox eye Providence for a new stadium.

    For the full story click here.

  • April 8, 2015

    Providence PawSox Proposal Asking For Greater Public Support

    The new owners of the Pawtucket Red Sox are asking for more public support to finance moving the team to a parcel of land in downtown Providence on former I-195 land. 

    For the full story click here. 

  • April 13, 2015

    Is the PawSox move to Providence a distraction to growing real business?

    Rhode Islanders look to a 43-year-old woman to lead the state out of one the worst economies in its history, and hope that Governor Gina Raimondo will begin the process of transforming the economy into a modern and functioning era.

    For the full story click here. 

  • April 16, 2015

    PawSox Ask for More Than $100 Million in State and Local Aid

    The Pawtucket Red Sox today unveiled their plan for a new ballpark in downtown Providence, which would cost taxpayers over $100 million.

    For the full story click here. 

  • April 17, 2015

    PawSox Consultant’s Findings in Other Cities Often Very Rosy

    A GoLocalProv review of reports written by consultants hired by the PawSox new ownership group finds similarities in the methodology and the findings of many of the reports that the consultants have delivered across the country.

    For the full story click here.

  • April 17, 2015

    PawSox Consultants Overestimated URI Ryan Center Attendance by Millions

    The consulting group hired by the new ownership group of the Pawtucket Red Sox was the same one retained by the state to conduct the business plan for the University of Rhode Island's Ryan Center in 2000 -- and furnished attendance projections for the Center which proved to be overinflated by nearly 30% over the course of its first ten years.

    For the full story click here. 

  • April 20, 2015

    Bill Introduced to Require Voter Approval for PawSox Stadium Deal

    New legislation has been introduced that would require voters to “approve any financial arrangement that obligates the state to fund the debts of others with respect to a baseball stadium.” 

    For the full story click here.

  • April 20, 2015

    John Loughlin: PawSox in Providence – A Counter Offer

    Here is John Loughlin’s “counter-offer” to the new owners of the Pawtucket Red Sox. 

    Click here for the full story. 

  • April 20, 2015

    Moore: A Preposterous PawSox Proposal

    After the jaw-dropping proposal from the Pawtucket Red Sox ownership, that would, among other things, force Rhode Islanders to pay the team $120 million for an $85 million stadium they'll build was released, former State Representative David Segal took to Facebook to ask a question: Why wouldn't the state just buy the team itself?

    Click here for the full story. 

  • April 20, 2015

    Leaders’ Reactions Mixed to Providence Sox Stadium Proposal

    The new owners of the Pawtucket Red Sox have announced their proposal to build a $85 million stadium in Providence  -- and while many Rhode Island elected officials and leaders have taken a wait-and see approach, a number have voiced their outright opposition to the plan as presented.

    Click here for the full story. 

  • April 21, 2015

    PawSox Owners Have Given Hundreds of Thousands in Political Contributions

    The new ownership group of the Pawtucket Red Sox has given hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions to candidates and elected officials in Rhode Island -- and its lobbying and communications team have donated over six figures combined on top of that.  

    Click here for the full story. 

  • April 26, 2015

    Opposition Mounting Against Providence Sox Stadium Proposal

    The 195 Commission reversed its decision to hold its meeting on the proposed Providence stadium Monday in closed session, announcing Friday it would now hold Monday's meeting open to the public, but public opposition to the proposed deal continues to grow.

    For the full story click here. 

  • April 27, 2015

    Dr. Mazze - Asking the Right Questions Now on PawSox

    The PawSox stadium proposal is on a fast-track to obtain financial support in one way or another from Rhode Island and the City of Providence. Various studies have been presented on the viability of a new stadium in Providence, and another study of about $150,000 has been commissioned. 

    For the full story click here. 

  • April 27, 2015

    New PawSox Stadium Location Emerges in Providence

    A new stadium location in Providence has emerged as an alternative to the proposed 195 Commission land, GoLocalProv has exclusively learned.

    For the full story click here. 

  • April 29, 2015

    Owners of Potential New PawSox Site Issue Statement As Alternative to 195 Land

    The owners of the Victory Plating site that GoLocalProv unveiled as an alternative site on Sunday have issued a statement regarding their site as the potential new home of the PawSox.

    For the entire story click here. 

  • May 1, 2015

    Dr. Mazze - New PawSox Stadium v. 38 Studios Lessons Unlearned

    Dr. Mazze writes, “Bringing up 38 Studios as the discussion for public financing and tax forgiveness continues for a new PawSox stadium in Providence gets the immediate response……we have to move forward.”

    For the full story click here. 

  • May 1, 2015

    RI GOP: Convention Center Contracts Warning Sign for PawSox Deal

    The Rhode Island House Republican Policy Group continued their investigation into the state's spending on the Convention Center Authority (CCA) at a meeting on Thursday, releasing findings from an Auditor General report that showed massive contact cost overruns in the 1990s that they said serve as a warning sign.

    For the full story click here. 

  • May 11, 2015

    Moore: Mattiello Must Leave Pawsox Fate Up To Voters

    GoLocal contributor believes that “Rhode Islanders should be asked directly if they want to spend tens of millions to pay for a new stadium for the wealthy men who now own the Pawtucket Red Sox.”

    For the full story click here.

  • May 12, 2015

    PawSox Want $120M, South Carolina Lands Volvo for $200M in Incentives

    The Pawtucket Red Sox new ownership is asking for $120 million in incentives from Rhode Island and a tax break from the City of Providence voiding property taxes for thirty years. The PawSox employ less than 30 full-time employees.

    For the full story click here

  • May 14, 2015

    Economist Says PawSox Leverage Over RI is Overstated

    Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s (D-Cranston) recent Pawtucket Red Sox talking points make it seem like the state of Massachusetts is waiting in the wings with financial incentives to lure the team away. Victor Matheson, a prominent economics professor from the College of the Holy Cross, poured cold water on that notion.

    For full story click here. 

  • May 18, 2015

    PawSox President Jim Skeffington Dies

    Jim Skeffington, the PawSox President and driving force behind the proposed move of the team to Providence, has died of a heart attack at age 73.

    For the full story click here. 

  • May 18, 2015

    PawSox Release Statement on Jim Skeffington Passing Away

    Pawtucket Red Sox President James Skeffington passed away of a heart attack early on the morning of May 18th. The Pawtucket Red Sox have released a statement regarding his passing. 

    For the full story click here. 

  • May 19, 2015

    What’s Next for the PawSox?

    The passing of Pawtucket Red Sox President James Skeffington raises new questions about the future of a Providence stadium, as the ownership group was in the midst of negotiating a new deal with Governor Raimondo and state leaders -- and embarking on a community tour to hear from residents of the city, spearheaded by Skeffington.  

    For the full story click here. 

  • May 26, 2015

    Pawtucket Fights to Keep PawSox: Mayor Grebien’s Letter to Larry Lucchino

    Just days after the passing of Pawtucket Red Sox owner James Skeffingon, Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien wrote a letter to Boston Red Sox owner Larry Lucchino.

    For the full story click here. 

  • June 5, 2015

    Bill to Require Voter Approval for PawSox Stadium in House Finance

    The Rhode Island House Finance Committee is hearing testimony Thursday afternoon on legislation to require voter approval for any financial agreement the State of Rhode Island may make with any professional sports franchise -- including any new PawSox stadium in Providence.

    For the full story click here. 

  • June 8, 2015

    Tens of Thousands Sign Petitions Against PawSox Providence Stadium Deal

    Petition signatures opposing the Pawtucket Red Sox moving to Providence have totaled over 10,000 signatures to date, with two petitions -- one to keep the Pawtucket Red Sox at McCoy Stadium and one to call for no financial aid from Providence -- slated to be delivered to leadership this week.

    For the full story click here. 

  • June 22, 2015

    PawSox Stadium Opponents to Up Pressure at State House this Week

    The Rhode Island General Assembly might be in the waning days of the 2015 session, but opponents to a Providence PawSox stadium are planning to ramp up their efforts to let lawmakers know they oppose a new deal if put forth -- or a special session to consider one. 

    For the full story click here. 

  • June 26, 2015

    PawSox Stadium Opponents Rally at RI State House

    Opponents to a Providence stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox rallied at the Rhode Island State House on Thursday, June 25th -- GoLocalTV was on location to get the scoop.

    For video footage click here. 

  • June 29, 2015

    David Norton: PawSox Owners Trying to Buy Support

    Why are the PawSox owners buying support with a catered dinner at a Salvation Army food pantry in South Providence?

    For the full story click here. 

  • June, 2016

    Pawtucket and PawSox Hire a Consultant

    The Pawtucket Red Sox along with the City of Pawtucket announced in the summer of 2016 that they issued a request-for-proposals for a McCoy stadium feasibility study. 

    The study was to "determine the needs, upgrades, improvements, and the associated costs, of McCoy Stadium, as called for within the existing lease between the Pawtucket Red Sox, the City of Pawtucket, and the State of Rhode Island."


  • Dec, 2016

    ABC6’s “In The Arena” - Debate Subsidy for Billionaire PawSox Owners

    The panel on this week's episode of ABC6's "In the Arena" debate the need to provide subsidies to the owners of the Pawtucket Red Sox.

    Moderator Joe Paolino leads the discussion and former Governor Ed DiPrete, former Attorney General Arlene Violet, former State Representative Ray Rickman, and GoLocal CEO Josh Fenton appear this week.


  • Jan, 2017

    National Stadium Expert: Public Should Not Subsidize PawSox to Stay in Pawtucket

    A leading sports economist is saying that he would personally advise no public money be spent on rehabbing - or rebuilding - McCoy Stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox, after a report released this week showed that it would cost $68 million to renovate McCoy, and at least $78 million to construct a new stadium.

    “As an economist, I would personally advocate for no public money beyond a provision to infrastructure around the stadium to fans can get to the games,” said Victor Matheson, who is a Professor of Economics at Holy Cross, whose focus is on sports. “That being said, there are certainty sports fans who think that having a AAA team in town is a nice amenity for local residents so might be worth some public money. So, some level of ask might be able to get public support.”


  • March, 2017

    Apex is the new favorite

    The new preferred location is the Apex department store site in downtown Pawtucket. It has great highway access, has the potential to be an economic spark, but has numerous environmental issues.

  • March 2017

    RI Commerce's Stefan Pryor Talks PawSox on GoLocal LIVE

    Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor talked with GoLocal about Commerce's role in facilitating development of the dormant Superman Building, how he feels about the ownership of the Pawtucket Red Sox looking for assistance with keeping the team in Pawtucket, and how Commerce increased its $1 million budget to $2 million to help businesses across the state with upkeep improvements. 


  • April, 2017

    PawSox’s President Steinberg Talks New Park Potential, Saturday Fireworks, and More on GoLocal LIVE

    Pawtucket Red Sox President Dr. Charles Steinberg talked with GoLocal about the team's upcoming season, the recently announced Hall of Fame list, the prospects of the future of McCoy and whether the Apex building location presents a viable option. 




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