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Guest MINDSETTER™ John Turbitt: Our Own Worst Enemy

Sunday, July 05, 2015


It’s in our DNA as Rhode Islanders. We’re skeptics in almost every way from our lack of trust in the weather man/woman to our lack of believing in our elected officials. It’s been that way for my 31 years on earth, and has been that way for the past 225 years of our state’s existence. I’d argue its part of the charm of our state. I love it here. However, we as Rhode Islanders can be our own worst enemy.

The Pawtucket Red Sox are leaving Pawtucket. This privately owned business has been forthcoming enough to tell us that. I’m not happy about it, I don’t agree with it, and I’m mad about it. Larry Lucchino along with his millionaire friends are swooping down from their luxurious Boston apartments and they are closing my childhood ballpark in McCoy stadium because it’s “good business."  The same people that pull at my heartstrings every night on NESN by paying tributes to the teams of old in every way possible are stepping on my first baseball memory. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons vs. Pawtucket Red Sox. I got a souvenir cup with the score of the longest game in history on it, along with one of those mini bats, and of course the little helmets with ice cream. That’s Americana at it’s finest, and Larry Lucchino is going to close it up.

The issue here is that Rhode Islanders have their viewpoint on the state (some have made a career of hating on this state ……see WPRO) and the biggest complaint you will hear from virtually every Rhode Islander both Democrat and Republican is that “We’re not a business friendly state, We don’t attract business,  We need to be competitive”. Well the privately owned business that has been here for 70 plus years wants a business friendly deal and these same Rhode Islanders are up in arms. Its hypocrisy at it’s finest. Personally I’m not a fan of giving millionaire’s tax breaks, especially one that is closing my childhood ballpark.  That being said we as Rhode Islanders have to make up our minds. Do we want to be business friendly? Do we want businesses to stay here? I know I do.

It’d be misleading for me to not mention I am not a fan of the Red Sox initially proposed stadium deal. They asked for too much in terms of tax incentives from the state. However, when negotiating any deal it’s common practice to ask for a little too much initially and then settle for what you thought you could get in the first place.  I “Hope” the RI General Assembly will counter the Red Sox offer with their own proposal and hopefully the differences between the two can be compromised because if the Boston Red Sox AAA affiliate is anywhere but Rhode Island it’s on us skeptics.

John Turbitt is a lifelong resident of East Providence where I teach American Government & US History.


Related Slideshow: The Ten Biggest Questions Facing the PawSox Coming to Providence

If the new ownership of the Pawtucket Red Sox want to build a new stadium in Providence, a number of questions need to be answered.  The potential for a major contruction project in the state's capitial city touches upon a number of issues, from money, to politics, to jobs, and development.  

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Owner interests?

What are the owners looking for from the state?

It's been one week since the new ownership group of the Pawtucket Red Sox was announced -- and their intention to look at Providence as a potential new location for the Red Sox AAA affiliate.  How long this has been their plan is unclear but what is more certain is the new owners are considering the pursuit of some public funding to be on the table.  What will they be seeking from the city and state, and how much?  As the state still reels from the failed 38 Studios deal, look to see what might be proposed -- and how the public reacts.  

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Public funding?

How much is the city -- and state -- willing to give?

While the new ownership has indicated that Providence is tops on their list for a new location for the PawSox, there are other cities and towns that could vie for attention. "I said to Mr. Skeffington, if Pawtucket could pull it out, would they be interested, but he said basically if it's not Providence, it would be a broader catch area," said City Council President Louis Aponte, of his conversation with the new ownership.  As the state and its capital city deliberate the best use of downtown real estate -- and the news 195 land -- how much will they be willing to make the new owners happy, especially if they starting pitting Providence against other locales?

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Economic impact?

What is the potential economic impact on Providence?

If Providence is the new home of the PawSox, it gets a ball club that has seen attendance at McCoy top 500,000 for 16 straight years -- only Louisville, Columbus, Buffalo, and Indianapolis have longer streaks.  "Anytime you can draw in on average 7500 people for games, it brings brings value to the state," John Gibbons, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Sports Commission, told GoLocal in January.  "That type of business doesn't necessarily draw in hotel use, but I know those facilities nearby do well when the PawSox play, and I know they bring in tax dollars every night with the sales at the park."  Jobs aside, watch to see who conducts economic impact studies -- and what that means in terms of any negotiations between owners and the city. 

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Jobs retained?

How many jobs will be retained?

Pawtucket's loss is Providence's gain, and the questions is does that go for jobs as well as economic impact.  How many of the existing PawSox job holders will see an opportunity in Providence?  Will the new ownership bring in new vendors, new office staff, new grounds crew? Will there be any downsizing in an attempt to streamline operations?   

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Jobs created?

How many jobs will be created?

One of the bigger questions is will a new Sox stadium create any new jobs in a state that certainly needs them.  Construction of a new stadium would no doubt provide short-term labor opportunities for the buildings and construction trades, but what about long term opportunities?  The development of the 195 land is beginning to take shape after addressing infrastructure needs, and now the city and state are looking to capitalize on the potential to foster high job growth industries.  Does a new baseball stadium fit that bill?  

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New business?

What will get built around it?

The potential location for a baseball stadium that is currently being discussed is the land just to the north of the South Street Landing project, the mixed-use multi-million dollar project will be a new home to a Rhode Island nursing education Center, Brown University offices and graduate student housing as well as a parking garage.  There are multiple 195 parcels on the land west of the river.  Will addition parking options be needed?  The PawSox play approximately 70 home games a year.  Who will step up as potential new neighbors?

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195 Plan?

How does it fit into 195 development?

Governor Gina Raimondo during her campaign called for the 195 land to be used as a manufacturing hub.  “In order to rebuild our economy, we have to start making things in Rhode Island again,” said Raimondo during the campaign. “My strategy will be to take the good ideas coming out of our universities and colleges and turn them into products we manufacture here. We have a historic opportunity with this I-195 land and we have to get it right." There are over eighteen acres available for development -- and Raimondo shook up the 195 commission last month with her own set of appointees, who have yet to make any major moves - as of yet.  

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What level of transparency will be disclosed?

The announcement of the sale of the PawSox to its new ownership group was followed by a press conference led by new owner James Skeffington.  While Skeffington offered ballpark figures for how much a new stadium might cost -- he cited $60-$70 million for other stadiums of its size -- what's unclear is how much the owners paid for the ball club.  If the ownership (whose personal wealth combined totals over $1 billion) seeks public funding, how much will they be willing -- and required -- to disclose about personal financial interests?

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Big picture?

Should Raimondo focus on larger issues?

Rhode Island's new Governor is entering her third month in office, set to introduce her first budget proposal in two weeks, and is facing tackling a projected $200 million budget deficit.  Having recently announced a working group to overhaul Medicaid, following identification of the state's most pressing fiscal issues, can the Governor afford to spend time brokering a deal for a minor league sports stadium?  Raimondo spoke of a state Innovation Institute being the cornerstone of her 195 vision -- will subsidizing a minor league ballpark be a focus of the administration?  

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Track record?

How have other deals performed – Convention Center, Airport, 38 Studios, Produce Market, Providence Place?

Providence hasn't seen major capital projects since Waterplace Towers changed the city skyline following the completion of the Providence Place Mall and the new Convention Center.  Since then, the failed 38 Studios deal has brought into scrutiny private companies being underwritten with moral obligation bonds -- and tax stabilization agreements in the city have similarly undergone scrutiny by the city council and taxpaying public.   Will a look a past projects play a role in the development of a stadium?


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