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Opposition Mounting Against Providence Sox Stadium Proposal

Sunday, April 26, 2015

 

Providence resident and business owner Asher Schofield is distributing the above bumper sticker in opposition to the deal.

The 195 Commission reversed its decision to hold its meeting on the proposed Providence stadium Monday in closed session, announcing Friday it would now hold Monday's meeting open to the public, but public opposition to the proposed deal continues to grow.

Opponents to the stadium deal -- and closed session -- had organized a rally for Monday for outside the meeting at Commerce RI offices on Monday. 

Mike Rollins with the Libertarian Party of Rhode Island, who is one of the protest supporters, offered his views on the current stadium deal put forth by the new ownership group of the Pawtucket Red Sox. 

"The proposed stadium deal is a reverse Robin Hood, which steals from the poor, then gives to rich, politically connected team owners," said Rollins.

SLIDES:  See Reactions to Proposed Stadium Deal BELOW

The 195 Commission meeting on Monday will provide another opportunity for the owners to present their plan unveiled to the public on April 15, which asks for $4 million a year in tax relief from the state over the duration of the proposed 30 year lease for an $85 million ballpark.  

While the meeting has been opened Monday to the public, public comment will not be allowed. 

"Although the meeting will be open, It is not a public hearing," said 195 Commission spokesperson Dyana Koelsch. 

Opponents Weighing In

Business owner and artist Asher Schofield, who opened the Frog and Toad on Hope Street in Providence, has been actively opposed to the proposal, and has on hand in the store bumper stickers in opposition to the deal.

"I've already been through two very large batches of them, we're currently 'sold out' right now," said Schofield, noting that they are free.  "We should have some in the coming week.  Only people that are in support of the sentiment have been taking them -- it's a pretty accurate barometer, I think,  of the pushback of the current proposal by the ownership."

Schofield noted what he saw as a potential disconnect between residents, and the General Assembly. 

A proposed lease deal would need approval by Rhode Island General Assembly

"My concern is that some of our legislators are supporting it -- and virtually everyone in the community is vehemently opposed.  If I were an elected official, and even remotely connected with this, I would fear for my re-election chances. The ground swell of opponents is massive," said Schofield.  "I think the people are wise enough to know that any legislator that supports this looks crooked."

Community organizer Fred Ordonez with DARE voiced his opposition against the proposed deal.

"If the investors think it's good, that's what investing is -- it's taking a risk to get a return on investment -- or not.  Why on earth are we subsidizing the wealthiest people in the state -- or elsewhere -- that's insane," said Ordonez.  "Especially given that poverty has been increasing as they have been focusing on downtown development.  This trickle down theory doesn't work, not when we need mental health services, social works, funding for the homeless."

Andy Posner, CEO of micro-lender The Capital Good Fund, said he was amazed by the "chutzpah" of the owners.

"It seems to me like people feel entitled to remake the city in the interest of their pet project," said Posner.  "The whole idea of subsidizing a bunch of incredibly wealthy people who like baseball, is galling. I work with poor and low income families. If the state is going to give out $4 million a year on a project, I'd rather it go to school building renovations, job training programs."

"And moreover, most young people are losing interest in baseball," said Poster. "The fan base is aging. If we built a park, everyone could enjoy it. But not everyone likes baseball."

Response to Change in Monday's Meeting Mixed

"We're happy to see that the I-195 Commission has decided to have this meeting in a transparent fashion. Many opponents called public officials, Including the Commission...to request just that," said Dave Fisher, co-host of The Coalition radio. "We're encouraged that the voice of the public is being heard on this issue."

On Friday, The Coalition's Pat Ford commented on the opposition to the current stadium deal. 

"We reiterate our call for the elimination of taxpayer sponsored deals that benefit crony corporatist at the expense of every day Rhode Islanders," said Ford.  

The 195 Commission issued the following statement on Friday reversing their decision. 

"Recognizing the high level of public interest in the proposal for a stadium on 195 land,  and in consultation with the Paw Sox owners, the 195 Commission has decided to hold in open session it’s Monday meeting for a presentation on the proposal."

The decision was a reversal from the day before, when the Commission had maintained it would be meeting in closed session.  

"I can't comment about particular proposals, but generally Executive Session is utilized to ensure that the Commission may ask questions and have substantive and detailed discussion about potential proposals including  confidential and/or proprietary information," said Koelsch.

 

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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