Guest MINDSETTER™ Dr. Mazze - New PawSox Stadium v. 38 Studios Lessons Unlearned
Friday, May 01, 2015
What happened with 38 Studios? First, several powerful state leaders were excited about dealing with “celebrities.” Second, there was no transparency about what was going to happen and if the “deal” would make business sense before the funds were approved by the legislature. Almost everyone including most legislators were kept in the dark. Even today, a few people know how and why the deal took place. Third, the deal had to be done immediately or it would go somewhere else. Fourth, hundreds of jobs would be created including construction jobs. And fifth, Providence would become a major “gaming” center.
Before the state provided the financial support to 38 Studios, there were many people who said publicly that this was a bad deal and recommended that the $75 million be spent to retain existing companies, make Main Street come alive and support new entrepreneurs. These funds could have supported 75 or more businesses.
Do these lessons apply to the proposed PawSox stadium in Providence? First, the parties in the deal include celebrities of one type or another. Second, there is little transparency….taxpayers are not being given information since this is a private venture. Third, the team may move if they do not get public funds for a new stadium. Fourth, the new stadium will create jobs with most jobs going to construction. Moreover, the full-time jobs created are not at the same compensation as jobs originally hoped for in the knowledge/jewelry district.
A Wrong Decision
A wrong decision has many implications. Taxpayers’ will be held responsible for paying off public funds for this project well into the future. A stadium does not have a lot of uses and will remain empty before it is demolished. What will happen with the current stadium in Pawtucket if a new stadium is built in Providence? And, if a stadium is built on land already identified for better use, the opportunity is lost in attracting those new businesses which are important to the Rhode Island economy and the City of Providence.
We should not forget 38 Studios. We cannot make the same mistake again. Let’s not forget the legislators who asked for an investigation of 38Studios. These same legislators will be joined by others asking for an investigation if the PawSox stadium receives public funds and things go wrong. Taxpayers may not be so tolerant when election time comes again.
Related Slideshow: Leaders React to PawSox Owners’ Providence Stadium Proposal
The new owners of the Pawtucket Red Sox presented their vision for a new $85 million stadium in Providence -- including a lease agreement from the state that would require the owners be paid $4 million a year for the thirty year duration.
Now, elected officials and business leaders are weighing in on the initial proposal by the ownership group -- see below.
Former Rhode Island Director of Administration, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council, and Founding Director of the Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership at Bryant University
"A minor league ballpark may not be an economic game changer. Thus it's cost and benefits must evaluate environmental, cultural, social and economic factors. The key point is any stadium should be consistent with the overall strategic development of Providence. This story has not been told yet."
University of Rhode Island Distinguished Professor of Business
"I would like to see the PawSox stay in Rhode Island. I do not think Rhode Islanders should pay for a new stadium for the next several decades or see Providence not collect taxes that could make it to a better city.....with better schools, lower property taxes and a lower automobile tax. To support the current proposal, there has to be tax payments to Providence, a financial deal with Pawtucket by the owners or the state to deal with the empty stadium and the owners paying for the new stadium with little in the way of state government assistance.
If there is state government financing assistance, there must be a guarantee that the team would not leave the state for the length of time of the financing. It would be interesting if the owners would consider selling "seat licenses" as a way of raising funds to build the stadium. This would be a real market test as to whether or not there is a need for a new stadium."
Spokesperson, RI Taxpayers
"The Paw Sox owners have asked the City of Providence for a waiver of property taxes. But the last thing that Providence needs is to remove yet another property from tax rolls. City Council President Luis Aponte's request that state taxpayers make up lost property taxes is understandable but out of the question, especially in light of the state's own very serious budget deficits.
Governor Raimondo has correctly pointed out that the state has very limited resources to invest in economic growth. These limited resources cannot go to develop prime public land into a very seasonal use that will have minimal impact on the economy at a substantial cost to local and state taxpayers. Our state leaders must say no to this project and return to the vitally important work of helping ALL businesses, not just one, by improving the state's tax and regulatory climate. We as a state can consider whether to participate in the luxury of a sports stadium as soon as our economy is healthy again."
"If Skeffington and his very wealthy partners want the PawSox in Providence then they should put an offer on the table that covers all of the costs to make it happen. They must provide revenue to the state for the land that they want to develop, and property tax revenue on its full value to the capitol city."
Pictured: James Skeffington
If the team is seeking taxpayer dollars, then taxpayers should get something in return, whether a share of equity or a slice of team revenues. For example, the federal government received equity for its investment in GM, while the Green Bay Packers are owned by citizen shareholders. It's not beyond possibility; let's find a way to make it happen."
Senior Deputy Majority Leader, Providence City Council
"I believe the stadium is beneficial to Providence and the state. The parking capacity must be resolved in favor of the stadiums' fans that is fair and reasonable. What events and other uses are not being presented which I find troublesome. A stadium is a great venue for families, colleagues and generally, baseball fans to enjoy. A $120 million commitment from state taxpayers is a large role asked of them wherein the return on the participation is not convincing to date."
Rhode Island State Representative, (D-Dist 4, Providence)
"For me to support a deal, that $120 million figure needs to come down dramatically, and a strong community benefits agreement needs to be reached. I also think it would be reasonable - if the state is making a significant public investment in the project - to see the state receive a portion of the profits from the stadium."
Rhode Island Governor
"The PawSox are an important institution in Rhode Island and our goal is to keep them in the state," said Raimondo. "The idea of a stadium in downtown Providence that can be used for multiple purposes is exciting. That said, my top priority is getting Rhode Islanders back to work, and we have very limited resources to invest in economic growth - especially in the face of a large structural deficit. I am committed to working with Mayor Elorza, the Speaker, and the Senate President to evaluate whether this project is in the best interest of Rhode Island, and whether we can afford it."
Rhode Island Commerce Secretary
"We hope and aim to keep this treasured team in Rhode Island. The project has the potential to enhance the vitality of a key district within our capital city. At the same time, this proposal involves a significant request for public resources. In collaboration with the City of Providence and the General Assembly, we will review this proposal in order to determine whether it makes financial sense and whether it will help catalyze the I-195 corridor."
Rhode Island Speaker of the House of Representatives
"We have not received a written legislative proposal yet, but when we do, it will be thoroughly analyzed. I will be talking to my House colleagues and I will gauge public opinion before making any assessment on the direction the state should move in."
Teresa Paiva Weed
Rhode Island Senate President
"The proposal that has been presented by the new owners of the Paw Sox to build a professional ballpark in Providence potentially represents a significant investment in Rhode Island. The proposal will be fully analyzed by the full Senate in a thorough and transparent process.”
Mayor, City of Providence
“The prospect of keeping the Red Sox’ Triple A team in Rhode Island represents a significant and exciting development opportunity for our city and state. We have coordinated to develop guidelines that ensure a thorough analysis of the stadium proposal. As Mayor, I am committed to continue working in close coordination with Governor Raimondo, Council President Aponte, our leaders in the General Assembly and the I-195 Commission as we move forward to make Providence and Rhode Island a better place to work, live and do business in the long term."
Providence City Council President
“The stadium has the potential to be catalytic and transformative in the way residents and visitors experience Downtown Providence. With the promise of drawing hundreds of thousands of spectators annually to the city, the stadium could help spur development of the nearby I-195 parcels, and generate additional revenue for the city and the state. We are committed to working with the Governor, the General Assembly, and the developers to ensure the project aligns with our goals and vision for the city, and that it is a good investment of our resources.”
Mayor of Pawtucket
"Perhaps the state should consider buying the franchise and reinvest in Pawtucket. It would be more cost effective and the state would have ownership at the end of the deal," said Grebien Communications Officer Rico Vota. "The Mayor has received many calls, emails and postings from fans throughout the state that do not support this current proposal. He is very careful to make sure that his decision is not solely based on the fact that he represents Pawtucket who would loose this valuable, historic ballpark. As someone who comes from the private sector, this deal only makes sense for the new business group and not the state of Rhode Island in its current structure."
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