How Some of the Richest Men in America Got Millions, Divided a State…Deal (PART III)

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

 

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Larry Lucchino - Pawtucket the last stop?

Larry Lucchino is a deal-maker. Not the type of negotiator who makes sure everyone wins. Lucchino is a pile it up, take all the chips off the table kind of guy.

He took firm control of the PawSox after his dismissal from the Boston Red Sox. In all likelihood, the PawSox would be his last stop and for the highly competitive Lucchino he wants to “leave with a win.”

“The Red Sox have been exploring a succession plan from Lucchino for some time. With his contract expiring at the end of the year, the club finally decided the time was right for Lucchino's everyday responsibilities to come to an end. A key factor in the timing also was the club's desire to promote, and not lose, the next generation of leaders, topped by Kennedy, in the Red Sox' executive branch,” wrote the Boston Herald on August 1, 2015.

“Although news of Lucchino's decision surfaced the day after the trade deadline, at which the Red Sox did little to improve a ballclub headed toward its third last-place finish in four years, sources insisted the timing was coincidental and Lucchino was not being forced out,” reported ESPN.

For Lucchino, who had worked for the Washington Redskins, the Baltimore Orioles, the San Diego Padres and the Boston Red Sox, Pawtucket was a long way from home.

Welcome in Rhode Island

As Lucchino emerged as Chairman of the Board for the PawSox, there were lots of issues to address. The former head of the ownership group Jim Skeffington had died and there was confusion and frustrations over the PawSox ambitious Providence stadium deal.

Most of 2016 was about the PawSox reorganizing and getting a new plan together.

By the end of the year, word leaked out that the PawSox were looking to build in Pawtucket and not Providence, despite having previously said the team would never remain in Pawtucket.

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Apex would be the new location

A New Stadium for Pawtucket

In January GoLocal broke that “On Wednesday, Apex Development Company issued a statement, ’As part of Apex Development Company’s vision to redevelop its Pawtucket properties, we are engaged in ongoing conversations with a number of interested parties including the Pawtucket Red Sox and other potential retail, office and restaurant tenants.’ GoLocal has learned that there has been extensive talks between the Administration of Gina Raimondo, Commerce RI, Mayor Don Grebien and the Pawtucket Red Sox ownership group."

But a new Pawtucket plan started to emerge off of a consultant’s report paid for by the City of Pawtucket and state officials.

The plan for a new stadium at the old Apex retail location was taking form. A new stadium that would be publicly funded versus the Providence stadium which the owners would build.

A leading sports economist told GoLocal in January of 2017 that he would 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 so 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.”

The 182-page report, which was paid for by PawSox owners, the City of Pawtucket, and State of Rhode Island, outlined what would be needed to fix the 75-year old facility, whose lease from the state expires in 2021. 

Citing the report, “page 132 and 134 say it all,” said Matheson. “Spending $68 million on a major rehab gets you about $22 million back over time. That's a pretty big negative return. Spending $94 million on a new stadium gets you about $24 million back over time. That's even worse.”

“It makes sense to do whatever the owners are willing to pay to have done,” said Matheson. “If they are willing to pay an extra $9 million per year in rent, then build them whatever stadium they want. If they expect the taxpayers to do it all, rehab the stadium just enough to keep it from falling down.”

In April of 2017, Lucchino started to roll out the new ownership plan.

Lucchino told a crowd of over 100 at Slater Mill that the ball club has a "strong preference" to stay in Pawtucket at the kick-off -- but offered few additional details to attendees.  

Lucchino's remarks came during a forum hosted by Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien along with the Pawtucket Foundation, to discuss Pawtucket’s "20/20 downtown development vision" with local business and property owners to get their input. 

“Pawtucket is experiencing a revitalization and a renewed sense of optimism. The commuter rail is on the horizon, new businesses are moving in, and our existing businesses are growing. Pawtucket is truly evolving,” said Grebien. “Now is Pawtucket’s time, and we want to align the efforts of the public and private sectors to capitalize on the momentum that these exciting projects are generating."

"We can be taught -- people are aware of the 2015 ill-fated venture to move to Providence that was led by a Providence 'chauvinist' that had a love for Providence that many of you have a love for Pawtucket," said Lucchino, referring to the late Jim Skeffington. 

"We have worked with the city [of Pawtucket} and leaders of the city and have learned...the civic pride, civic possibilities," said Lucchino. " As a result, our very strong preference is to stay home. The Paw Sox belong in Pawtucket."

Lucchino mentioned few particulars, including whether their preference leaned towards staying at McCoy, moving to the Apex location, or looking at other options -- only that the yet to be unveiled PawSox project "fits in beautifully with Grebien's 20/20 vision."

"We've often said it's going to be more than a ballpark," said Lucchino. "The opportunity is present here. A new facility may be a ballpark, but it will be a public park the other 270 days a year. It will be a gathering place for community and open to a variety of multiple uses -- it has to be in a great neighborhood."

The plan was taking shape, the PawSox ownership had shed their Providence legacy, or so they thought, and they were moving forward with a new stadium in Pawtucket.

Saturday, Part IV -- The Fight

Read Parts 1 and Part II 

 
 

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