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Guest MINDSETTER™ David Norton: PawSox Owners Trying to Buy Support

Monday, June 29, 2015


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

In terms of sinking the PawSox brand to a new low, this has to be the lowest imaginable for the new PawSox ownership in the very short time that they have owned the team.  The announcement of an “informational” meet and greet dinner event Monday night, which will be catered, in the economically struggling community of South Providence and also in the same location as a food pantry for the Salvation Army, is shameful and careless.

The previous PawSox ownership, lead by Ben Mondor, intentionally and thoroughly created a legacy of family fun at reasonable prices for Rhode Island and neighboring Massachusetts.  In contrast, the PawSox ownership, lead by principal owner Larry Lucchino, is not only no Ben Mondor, but the announcement of a catered dinner event in an apparent attempt to buy support is down right insulting to Providence residents and Rhode Islanders alike.  It highlights the very strong disconnect between the PawSox ownership and the people of Providence and Rhode Island.  

The difference between the previous ownership and the new ownership is most clearly visible in the light of the deplorable state of Providence recreation centers. This apparent move by the PawSox ownership to convince the very communities that rely on funding for the maintenance of recreation centers so completely can only be characterized as pathetic: them doing a catered event in a food pantry makes it even disgusting!

Buying Dinner While Rec Centers Crumble

The PawSox owners are going into a struggling Providence community that is in need of scarce tax dollars to fund vital community recreation centers, among many other things.  They are trying to buy support for their outrageous and risk-free, tax-payer subsidized $120 million dollar stadium deal with catered dinners at a food pantry while Providence at-risk youth are making due with closed and broken recreation centers, which lack funding from already devastating tax short falls and cuts to programs.  In fact, the City of Providence's nine recreation centers are crumbling and in a state of disrepair.  These nine recreation centers have torn and worn down gym equipment, broken and missing lighting, unsafe broken bathrooms and water fountains, and are in a state of complete disorder.  There are broken floors, and tears in fences that are big enough to walk through.  There are shower rooms that can’t be used due to lack of storage space.  

It would be an understatement for me to say that I do not like these new PawSox owners: I think they are just plain rotten, and they are blind to the struggles of so many Rhode Islanders!  When I think of the $120 million dollars that they have asked for from the State of Rhode Island to be responsible for over a 30 year period, it makes me frustrated and angry.  But, for the PawSox owners to be coming into Providence in a place that is so clearly in dire need of assistance and repair and asking for a $120 million dollar handout in a place where people may need a helping hand the most, like a food pantry, is absolutely revolting.

The PawSox ownership plan to do 39 meet and greet events across the State of Rhode Island over the summer to convince Rhode Islanders why we need to pay for a new stadium in Providence.  I would say that this first meet and greet that they have planned has to be the clearest view of the complete and utter incompetence of the ownership group!  

The group seems blind and or carelessly ignorant of Rhode Island, or perhaps they simply do not care!  First, they fly an outsider in to tell us how things are, and how they will be.  This minor league executive “consultant” came up to Providence to give a speech peppered with very strange and insulting Southern expressions, in which he called our beloved and historic McCoy Stadium “that pig”.  Then, they have a guy (the same guy that will be doing this meet and greet at the Salvation Army food pantry) who gave a tour of the proposed stadium site who had no idea where our river is located( despite being just feet away).

This meet and greet planned for the 29th of June at 6:00pm at the Salvation Army in Providence, truly paints a terrible picture of the PawSox ownership group.  This type of organization, that we Rhode Islanders are up against, is one that is ignorant to tax-payers, Rhode Islanders and also the needs of Rhode Island communities.  Do we as Rhode Islanders and tax-payers really want to give people like this $120 million dollars in tax-payer subsidies when we have communities struggling to feed themselves and at-risk youth with no where to go and nothing to do?  Do we really want to go down the same road as we did with 38 studios, when we understand that we don’t even have enough money to fix our bridges, recreation centers and even potholes on our roads?

David Norton is a Pawtucket resident and group organizer for Organizing for Pawtucket.


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.  

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Gary Sasse

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."

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Edward Mazze

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."

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Monique Chartier

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."

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Pam Gencarella

Spokesperson, OSTPA

"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

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Mike Stenhouse

CEO, RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity

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."

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Terrence Hassett

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."

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Aaron Regunberg

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."

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Laurie White

President, Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce

"It is still in the early innings. The chamber was briefed on the proposal on Friday and we expect that it is subject to change. Conceptually, it is very exciting. Awaiting further details."

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Gina Raimondo

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."

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Stefan Pryor

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." 

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Nicholas Mattiello

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."

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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.”

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Jorge Elorza

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."

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Luis Aponte

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.”

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Donald Grebien

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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