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Guest MINDSETTER™ Robert Billington: Welcome Home Pawtucket Red Sox

Friday, February 12, 2016

 

While they never really left Pawtucket, to many of us it sure seemed like they did. Last year was a difficult year for the community. We learned about the Pawtucket Red Sox seeking another home only to abandon McCoy Stadium and Pawtucket. We were told there was no use discussing anything – the Pawtucket Red Sox were leaving.  

While the neighborhoods surrounding McCoy are not glamorous, they are authentic places and these are the types of stadiums that helped baseball grow into being the sport it is today. Baseball grew to the chosen American past time in the neighborhoods across America, just like Pawtucket. Our Textile Mill Leagues here in Blackstone Valley provided a work diversion, and entertainment with their baseball teams and that helped the professional teams grow. From these neighborhood fields Rhode Island sent players like Nap LaJoie to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The roots of great baseball came from McCoy. These roots are what we need to build upon at McCoy.   

The announcement of the move was not well received. The community was outraged, upset and created an organized resistance to the team moving. Rallies were held and the fans spoke up and out. Pawtucket’s Mayor, Don Grebien, took on the “up-hill battle” of fighting to keep the team in Pawtucket. The team’s effort to move has drastically changed. For the near future, the team is staying.    

Last week, at a lunch at McCoy’s Clubhouse, Pawtucket Red Sox Chairman Larry Lucchino, Team President Dr. Charles Steinberg and General Manager Dan Rea addressed the community in a way that went beyond professional. It was heartfelt, meaningful and seemed to impact positively everyone in the room. The late owner Ben Mondor and then President Mike Tamburro, now Vice Chairman, built the team with an amazing spirit that was not just corporate - it was heartfelt and community-driven.  We have that spirit back at McCoy Stadium.  

Our hearts were broken when the new owners fought so hard to leave Pawtucket. The community was not without blame.  We could have done more to help create the “Destination Ballpark” they seek and deserve.  It can be done in Pawtucket.  We have time on our side and work to do.  Economic Feasibility and Design Site Feasibility studies have to be completed.

The new team leadership, and the administrative support they have assembled, is working hard to regain the trust, friendship and support developed by the late Ben Mondor.

The community needs to support the work of our Pawtucket city officials and the new Pawtucket Red Sox ownership, if we are to keep the Pawtucket Red Sox at McCoy.  Let’s begin to grow back the attendance, the business support and the high community morale the team gave us.  Go Pawtucket Red Sox! 

Welcome to Pawtucket and Rhode Island Mr. Lucchino!  This will be a great year.

Robert Billington, Ed.D., is the President of Blackstone Valley Tourism Council, Inc.,

 

Related Slideshow: PawSox Stadium Aftermath: Winners and Losers

The Providence baseball stadium looked like a sure thing. Powerful owners pushing the project. Top politicians coupled with influential lobbyists and PR consultants all on board. Then, everything changed.

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Winner

Coalition Radio -- A small group of libertarian activists relentlessly advocated against any public financing for a private venture. Pat Ford, Dave Fisher and Tony Jones leveraged internet radio and social media to pound the project and the costs.

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Loser

Speaker Nicholas Mattiello -- The Speaker was all in for the project. He repeatedly voiced his strong support for the project. Some said it was a project for his legacy and others said he supported the project as a result of influence of the ownership group and their lobbyist Bob Goldberg.

It wasn't long ago that the Speaker said the Providence Stadium would be revenue positive.  In a few short weeks, the project somehow went from supposedly financially advantageous to taxpayers to DOA. 

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Winner

GOP -- The Rhode Island Republicans came out against the project early and kept raising questions about the cost and the approval process.  Despite being in the political minority, the Republicans used their thorn-in the-side status to play the spoiler. 

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Loser

Old School Top Down PR Strategy -- Renderings, fact finding trips for leaders and listening tours were all the strategies embraced by the ownership team and each came back and burned them. The listening tour had higher attendance at many sites by taxpayers who were opposed to the project -- and the fact they had to write their questions down, and be lectured to in response, did not go over well by opponents.

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Winner (maybe)

Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien -- It looked like the Mayor was a loser for sure with his city's most valuable asset moving from Pawtucket just 6 miles away to a gleaming new $100 Million project in Providence. With the Providence Stadium dead, Pawtucket has a window to try and create a proposal that improves McCoy, is financially viable and acceptable to the ownership group.  

The window is very short, and Grebien will move from the winners' column to the losers' bracket if the PawSox leave RI.

As the Mayor wrote in a GoLocal MINDSETTER™ piece, "We remain hopeful that the new owners will see the value that Pawtucket has given their brand and that the growth we are experiencing will only strengthen it. We hope they will Join the Evolution here in Pawtucket."

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Loser

Jorge Elorza -- The Providence Mayor was unable to put together a deal and a location that worked for taxpayers. There was -- and still may be -- an opportunity to bring hundreds of thousands of new visitors into the city annually at the 195 site.

Elorza needs to change the present narrative from crime, a decrepit recreation system, and visits to meet with Guatemalan corrupt leaders to where the city needs to be.

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Winner

Taxpayers -- A coalition of taxpayer groups and activists scored their most significant political victory to date. This may spark an empowered effort to take on other issues with enthusiasm.

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Loser

Public Financing of Stadiums in the US -- The dramatic defeat of the proposed stadium in Providence may cause other cities, counties and states to take a harder look at the economics of public financing of stadiums.  

There is now a blueprint for how taxpayers and progressives can build a coalition to oppose a professional sports team, organized labor and billionaire ownership interests.

The PawSox defeat and the Boston Olympics collapse may speak to a broader grassroots movement opposed to the spending on public funds on private projects.

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Winner

Grassroots Activists -- Multiple grassroots efforts sprang up to oppose the stadium move, and perhaps none as vocal - or visible -- as "Organizing for Pawtucket" and David Norton.

Even when a new stadium looked like it was on life support, Norton and supporters utilized both social media and traditional boots-on-the-ground techniques (read: canvassing the Speaker's neighborhood -- in Cranston) to keep the pressure on until the deal was dead. 

 
 

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