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PawSox Providence Stadium is Dead Says Speaker Mattiello

Sunday, September 20, 2015


The highly controversial proposed baseball stadium in Providence is dead. A statement issued today by RI Speaker Nicholas Mattiello asserted that the project as proposed is no longer viable.

"It is disappointing that negotiations have ended at the I-195 property. I thought that would have been a very successful location.  A stadium there would have brought the community together and would have acted as a catalyst for further economic development in Providence.

"Unfortunately, different entities put artificially high costs on a deal, which proved to be insurmountable.

"The direction the Pawtucket Red Sox take now is entirely up to them.  I continue to believe that the PawSox are a valuable asset to Rhode Island and I will consider other viable options that the team may bring forward."

Reasons Why

A GoLocal review of the proposed project, "12 Reasons Why the PawSox Move to Providence is in Peril," outlined the flaws in the strategy to build the proposed stadium. SEE REASONS BELOW

As reported on September 8, 2015:

It was supposed to be a bit of a homerun. The PawSox new ownership was a dream team with a net worth of billions, their front man was one of Rhode Island's best deal makers and they had the early support of some key elected officials including newly-elected Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza.

Now, just about six months later, the project is very much in doubt.

Jim Skeffington died unexpectedly and left the project without a leader for several months, but the issues, miscues and the size of the financial demands have been some of the biggest factors.

One opponent of the Providence Stadium, Sam Bell posted to Facebook, "We won!!!! What an incredible victory! They said it couldn't be done. They said the fix was in. They said we had no chance. But we won! I want to thank all my friends who worked so hard to make this a reality. You guys were incredible!"


Related Slideshow: Reasons Why the PawSox Move to Providence is in Peril

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Ben Mondor Factor

Ben Mondor was beloved. He was Rhode Island. He was the embodiment of the PawSox team and its success.  He greeted fans at the front gate at every game and was so proud to that you came to a game in McCoy Stadium. 

In contrast, the new owners were rich, primarily out of Boston and Florida and for the most part, well-hidden. Other than the late Jim Skeffington and Boston Red Sox’ former President Larry Lucchino, none of the other owners have publicly appeared or commented on the project.

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Not Broken

If you have been to a game at McCoy Stadium, the experience is wonderful. The park is delightful, the food is inexpensive, and it is steeped in history.

Regardless of the outcome of the game everyone seems to have a wonderful time.  A family of four can park, eat, and enjoy the game for less than $80 dollars.

For Rhode Islanders, moving a minor league baseball team six miles at a cost of tens of millions of dollars is low on their worry list. Issues like the economy, job growth, repairing infrastructure, improving education, and addressing crime are of immediate need of attention in Providence.

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Social Media

The Baseball RI Facebook page (the Facebook page of the PawSox ownership group’s promotion of the Providence Stadium) has 792 "likes." The opponents of the move to Providence and the groups that oppose public funding for a Providence Stadium Facebook accounts has attracted tens of thousands of "likes."

The ability of opponents to communicate and raise issues instantaneously through social media has been profound to the discussion of the project.

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 Too Big (Greedy) an Ask

The first ask by the group of millionaires was more than $120 million to fund the move of the PawSox from beloved McCoy stadium in Pawtucket to a new facility.

The PawSox organization’s new ownership have repeated offered veiled threats to move the team out of Rhode Island.  PawSox spokesperson Patty Doyle has repeatedly said that Pawtucket is not an option - the team will either move to Providence or out of state. 

"From what I understand of the owners' initial proposal, it appears that Rhode Island taxpayers would pay most, if not all of the cost of building the new stadium, yet the owners would stand to receive all of the profits. That isn't fair for Rhode Islanders," said Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo in April.  

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Pay Fair Share

The proposal also demanded an agreement with the City of Providence to pay no taxes for 30 years for the $80 million stadium. In contrast, a GoLocal review of Boston tax files showed that the Boston Red Sox pay over $3 million a year for Fenway Park and some adjacent properties.

In the May article:

City of Boston tax records show the ownership team that owns the Boston Red Sox pays millions annually to the city in property taxes for 103-year-old Fenway Park and they pay hundreds of thousands more for three other parcels of land.

The same ownership group is leading the effort to move the Pawtucket Red Sox to Providence and asking for tens of millions in state subsidies, and looking in Providence to avoid paying property taxes for decades.

Boston Red Sox ownership group’s Fenway Park has an assessed value of more than $81 million dollars and pays the city of Boston more than $2.4 million in property taxes for the 1912 Fenway Park.  

In addition, the Boston Red Sox own three other major parcels that pay almost $1 million more in property taxes:
2 Yawkey Way with a $5,526,206 assessed value that pays $163,133.60
12 Lansdowne Street with a $16,557,902 assessed value that pays $488,789.80
Brookline Avenue parcel with a $5,992,000 assessed value that pays $176,883.84
And, Fenway Park with an assessed value of $81,413,223 and that pays $2,403,318.34


In total, the Boston Red Sox ownership pays more the City of Boston $3,232,125.58 per year according to City of Boston tax data.

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Old School Strategy

The investors, the late Jim Skeffington, and the PR consultants all made their fame and most importantly their fortunes back in the 1980s and 1990s.  

Their PR and political approach was top down and relationship-based. Those strategies mattered when the only media was the daily newspaper and the political power was centralized, depending on a key few dealmakers to make things happen.

They thought the strategies that they used then would allow them to be successful in 2015.

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Passion v. Paid

The volunteers that have organized to either keep the PawSox in Pawtucket or oppose taxpayer investment in the project have been motivated by the cause.

For those Pawtucket loyalists, they think it is imperative to keep the team in the city to perserve the town from being just another dying mill town in New England.

Others have been motivated because they think the project might be of benefit, but oppose the demands that taxpayers support a professional team and underwrite an ownership group with a collective net worth in excess of $5 billion.

It is unpaid grassroots opposition versus a grasstop Goliath - a Goliath with very, very deep pockets. 

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No Leverage

The new PawSox ownership would love nothing better than to play Worcester or Springfiled off against Providence for the future home of the team.

Back in February, former Massachusetts Lt. Governor and President and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce Tim Murray told GoLocal, "If the deal were to fall apart, I think people here would be willing to listen, but everyone recognizes this requires signifcant municipal assistance. Massachusetts, traditionally, has been reluctant to use tax dollars to those kind of things, and I think in most cases, appropriately so."

With no offers from other communities - the PawSox' leverage is limited, and the opposition knows it. 

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38 Studios Factor

Three years after the collapse of Curt Schilling's gaming company and the loss of an estimated $100 million in taxpayer dollars, there are more questions now more than ever -- and back front and center in the news with the upcoming release of court documents.

Self-proclaimed government reforms groups continue to call for an independent investigation and to date there has been little activity by law enforcement and no one has been charged in the incident.

As a result, Rhode Islanders are cynical about large scale public financing of projects that are privately negotiated behind closed doors.

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It took more thn ten years and more than $500 million to move I-195 and open more than 20 prime acres for development and open space.

Few cities in America have the ability to market such waterfront space to attract and grow businesses. 

The proposed stadium sits in the midst of what was envisioned to be a park and walking bridge to connect two sides of the river. 

As GoLocal reported in July

As opponent group organizer Sam Bell told GoLocal, "We clearly think that the park use for which that land is intended for is its best use, not a stadium. Even if the new ownership group were to come back and say they wanted no public assistance -- which we can't see happening at this point, given their statewide efforts -- we don't feel a stadium on that location is the best or highest use of that land."

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Lack of Transparency

The secret meetings with the Governor and Speaker coupled with a "listening tour" in which the public had to write their questions and could not speak about a proposal that is yet to be made public has made the process a mess.

The secrecy and lack of transparency has driven even those open to the project cynical.

Since the original $120 million proposal was disclosed in April, the ownership group has failed to present any outline of the next iteration of the project has yet to be disclosed.

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Brown Pullout

When the project was first presented in early 2015, the proposal included activities like Brown football games and other activities by the colleges and universities.

More recently, Brown has announced they will not move forward without public support, the University is not likely to play games at the facility, and has demanded a $1 million a year lease payment or $15 million to sell the property. 

The decision by Brown dramatically increases the cost of the project.


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