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Aponte Says Talks with PawSox Ownership About Victory Place Forthcoming

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


Victory Place, now owned by Lifespan, will be the subject of discussion between city officials and PawSox ownership.

Providence City Council President Luis Aponte said Tuesday that talks are forthcoming between the Council and the new ownership group of the Pawtucket Red Sox, pertaining to the Victory Place opportunity in Providence for a new ballpark.

The news comes at a time when the PawSox are being approached by other potentially interested cities in Massachusetts, and Pawtucket is looking to obtain at least two feasibility studies pertaining the viability of McCoy Stadium, following the demise of the proposal put forth by the ownership group for the 195 land.

“We'll talk with them in the next few weeks,” Aponte told GoLocal on Tuesday of the new ownership group.  “During negotiations over 195 there seemed to be a proposal floated that was more palatable [that the first], before Brown's ask for $15 million pulled the plug.”

“It will take political leadership,” continued Aponte.  “It has to be someone besides the speaker, and I’m pretty sure that it’s not going to be the Mayor." 

Looking at Neighborhood in Whole

Aponte acknowledged that Lifespan would be brought in, as they recently acquired the Victory property.  GoLocal was first to report that the parcel of land off of Allens Avenue was being floated as an option for the AAA club to consider. 

“I think we need one earnest effort to make something downtown happen,” said Aponte.  “[We] absolutely will have conversations with Lifespan -- what would it cost to convey the property, or how do we get into eminent domain. Lifespan said they have no immediate use [for the property].”

Aponte said that Victory presented a different set of parameters — and opportunities — than the effort that just failed to see the stadium built on 195 land.

“It can be a different approach -- it can be looked at in the broader view of neighborhood redevelopment, that includes the stadium, as opposed to the stadium driving everything else,” said Aponte.  “I think if there’s additional development, there might be an ear for that.”

City - and State - Role 

“I think it's got to be a redevelopment plan, and it's a city-state partnership,” said Aponte. “It can't just be the city putting something on the table. We have to determine [the owners’] interest. They’ve said before that Providence is where they want to be, so we can see if that's the case."

“So what does the city’s involvement look like ?  What does the state's, what would the owners kick in?  Again, it would be a different kind of development with neighborhood redevelopment.  You do that, and the other stuff pays taxes, which could help subsidize the stadium.  The state would have to kick something in, there are different tools to make it happen."  

“But someone needs to step up and wave the flag,” said Aponte.  “And so far, we haven’t seen that from Raimondo or Elorza.”


Related Slideshow: The Paw Sox Contenders - October 2015

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The PawSox aren’t going anywhere - for the time being. Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien is calling for both for a feasibility study as required by the lease agreement with the state, as well as the one conducted by the new owners, as reports of outside interests in the AAA continue to mount.

GoLocal Mindsetter Kenneth Berwick argued in August that the city should align its interests with the new national park status of neighboring Blackstone River Valley; whereas GoLocal’s Russ Moore argued recently that “RI is too poor to bid for the PawSox.”

Right now there’s only speculation surrounding the team's next move, but people like David Norton are continuing to keep pressure on leadership to keep Pawtucket in the game -- if it makes sense for taxpayers. 

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As GoLocal was first to report, another potential Paw Sox location in Providence emerged following the 195 proposal — the old Victory Place footprint just off Allens Avenue.  The previous owners touted the option would remove the need for state involvement and the proposed "lease and sublease" provisions that would have cost Rhode Island tens of millions over the next thirty years. 

Fast forward several months, and the 195 proposal is no more, and the Victory property is now owned by Lifespan.  Holy Cross Professor of Economics Vic Matheson says that if a stadium gets put there “the city would most likely take control of that spot, it would easier to deal with abatements."

"The 195 spot they say died for environmental reasons, but if people were really excited about it, they would have made it happen," said Matheson. "It's hard to see taxpayers in Providence wanting to give millions to the owners.”

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New England’s second largest city remains on the short list of prospects for the Red Sox AAA affiliate, but business leaders weren’t keen on using tax dollars to subsidize the project back in February, when Tim Murray, President and CEO of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce said, “The doors are always open...I think people here would be willing to listen, but everyone recognizes this requires significant municipal assistance. Massachusetts, traditionally, has been reluctant to use tax dollars to those kind of things, and I think in most cases, appropriately so."

City Councilor Gary Rosen was bullish on the proposal after the 195 location fell through. “The 'WorSox' could purchase, clean up and build a fine stadium on the spacious Wyman Gordon property near Kelly Square," said Rosen in September. "That location also has excellent highway access."

Vic Matheson at Holy Cross said he could see it happening — contingent on the ownership fronting the cost to build a new stadium. “I can't imagine [Worcester] pouring $4 million a year for 20 years.  I see no reason why they wouldn't make it easy, but they wouldn't foot the bill."

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Springfield’s Communications Director Jim Leydon told 22News earlier this month that Mayor Domenic Sarno spoke with Pawtucket Red Sox owner Larry Lucchino and that Leydon says the Mayor would like to have a more formal conversation, but no meetings are scheduled.  Leydon turned down request for comment from GoLocal on Monday.    

The interest by New England’s fourth largest city comes on the heels of the groundbreaking of a $800 million MGM casino which is slated to open in 2018.  Holy Cross Professor of Economics Vic Matheson said his “guess is Springfield” to be the frontrunner as an option to Pawtucket.

“That’s just because of the money surrounding the new casino, but there's still issues with that,” said Matheson.

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Fall River

Could Fall River be the new location for the Pawtucket Red Sox?  That’s the headline that was posed by the Fall River Herald News’ Kevin P. O’Connor on October 15.

According to O’Connor: “We have started poking around, to see if there is an interest in bringing the Pawtucket Red Sox to Fall River,” said Robert Mellion, president and CEO of the Fall River Area chamber. “This is a job for the Chamber, to see if there is an interest and to talk to people to see where the interest might lead.”

The consideration comes at a time when Fall River is set to welcome a new Amazon distribution center which will employ 1,000 and is set to be completed next year, according to the Herald News Jo C. Goode. 


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