Grebien Calls on General Assembly to Approve Slater Mill Ballpark Immediately

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

 

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Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien

Mayor Donald Grebien is calling for the General Assembly to act immediately to approve the Ballpark at Slater Mill.

Grebien’s call to action comes as the City of Worcester is developing a deal to build a stadium for the PawSox. Recently, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker committed to the project. The Baker offer is for infrastructure and land. 

“Rhode Island’s leaders must act and approve this proposal in January. Our PawSox are going to end up in Worcester if we do not act. We cannot afford to watch the tax dollars go to another city and another state,” said Grebien.

The threats by the PawSox to move out-of-state have gone back three years since the new ownership bought the team from the family of long-time owner Ben Mondor.

Grebien also proposed that if the General Assembly will not approve the new Senate plan that was proposed earlier this month, then the City of Pawtucket would be willing to take on the funding of the stadium if the tax revenue from the PawSox were reassigned to support bonds. There was little detail to the proposal.

Grebien's new proposal would require significant review, legislative changes, and might face significant challenges from bond rating agencies like Moody's. It is unclear how such a structure would not continue to require a state backstop to the bonding.

Ballpark at Slater Mill

The stadium will seat between 9,000 and 10,000 fans and use the same field dimensions as Fenway Park.

SEE THE NEW PROPOSED SENATE DEAL BELOW

The total cost of the project is $83 million.

Grebien added, “Rhode Islanders don’t want to see yet another icon, place for families and business disappear. And Pawtucket cannot lose our chance to rebuild our city and boost the Blackstone Valley. Now, as elected leaders, we cannot be paralyzed by the past. We have to move our great state forward. We have to act. And we have to act now.”

A GoLocal poll conducted by John Della Volpe of Harvard found that the proposed funding scheme for the PawSox has little public support in Rhode Island. Della Volpe heads the polling firm Socialsphere.

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Related Slideshow: New PawSox Deal—December, 2017

Here are the provisions of the legislation according to the Senate Finance Committee,

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Compliance with Public Corporation Debt Management Act: The legislation was amended to better conform to the requirements of the State’s Public Corporation Debt Management Act, or “Kushner Act.” The Budget Office’s fiscal note indicated that the bill as originally written did not meet these requirements. The statute requires that financing leases to which the state is a party must be authorized by the General Assembly through resolution. The resolution must include the maximum possible obligation of the state. The original language only listed the value of the principal to be borrowed and not the cost of issuance and total debt service. The amended language more clearly identifies the maximums as $41.0 million, $26.0 million, and $18.0 million for the Series A, B, and C bonds respectively.

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Naming Rights: Based on the fact that the Pawtucket’s redevelopment agency will be the owner of the new ballpark and the determination that Pawtucket will experience a gap between new revenue and its annual debt obligation until sufficient ancillary development has taken place, S-0989 was amended to direct 50 percent of the ballpark naming rights revenue to the City of Pawtucket to assist with its annual debt service payment. This revenue is estimated to be $250,000.

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Ticket Pricing: Based on the determination that Pawtucket will experience a gap between new revenue and its annual debt obligation until sufficient ancillary development has taken place, S-0989 was amended to reflect the transfer of the premium ticket surcharge revenue from the state to the city. The bill clarifies the definition of a “ticket” and was amended to include language memorializing the team’s commitment not to raise ticket prices for five years.

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50K sq. ft. Ancillary Development: The legislation requires any future lease to include a provision that the team develop a minimum of 50,000 sq. ft. of real estate contemporaneously with the construction of the ballpark.

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Maintenance and Capital Improvement: S-0989 was amended so that any future lease must contain a requirement that the team is responsible for the daily, operational maintenance of the ballpark and its costs. The lease must also explicitly make clear that the state is not responsible for operational maintenance. The lease shall require that the team be responsible for a minimum 50 percent of annual capital expenditures and that the city, state, and team must contribute a minimum of $150,000 in total per year into a capital expenditure fund to finance capital expenditures. The parties will be required to develop a multi-year capital improvement plan detailing expected, future capital projects and outlays. No capital expenditure funds shall be used for operational maintenance.

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Construction Costs: The $12.0 million of equity pledged by team owners is required by the legislation to be the first funds expended towards the construction costs of the new ballpark. In the event that land acquisition and ballpark construction costs come in less than $83.0 million, the savings shall be distributed on a pro-rata basis to the team, city, and state at a rate of 46.5 percent, 32.4 percent, and 21.1 percent respectively. Lastly, any construction cost overruns that exist will be paid by the team.

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Public Park: The bill memorializes the commitment by the parties of making the new ballpark available as a public park facility. The bill requires the lease to contain a provision directing the city to provide planning and operational assistance on public park aspects of the park. The lease must also specify that the facility will be operated year-round in and around the ballpark, separate and apart from the ballpark’s baseball-related uses, in order to create public recreational, social, and communal benefits.

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Green Design & RIIB Financing: S-0989 was amended to encourage the use of energy efficient and sustainable design, construction, and operations at the new ballpark. It encourages the use of financing programs available through the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank, including, to the extent practicable, the State Revolving Funds and the Efficient Buildings Fund, which provide low cost financing for eligible renewable and energy efficiency, stormwater abatement, water conservation, and other sustainable infrastructure projects.

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Fair Labor Standards Act Compliance: The legislation was amended to affirm the requirement that the team comply with fair labor standards. Employers associated with the business of the ballpark, including the team, would be required to adhere to state and federal Fair Labor Standards practices, including provisions that prevent labor misclassification by incorrectly designating workers as “independent contractors.”

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Lease Conditions: The lease is required to be for 30 years and must be reviewed and approved by the State Properties Commission prior to the issuance of bonds.

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Eminent Domain: Based on the concerns expressed during public testimony and a subsequent determination that the need for this expansion was overstated, S-0990 was amended to eliminate the expansion of eminent domain powers under the Redevelopment Act and to restore the definition of “blighted and substandard” throughout the bill.

 
 

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