PawSox Stadium Opponents to Up Pressure at State House this Week

Monday, June 22, 2015


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Opponents to a PawSox move to a new Providence stadium are planning to rally at the State House on Thursday. Photo: Daniel Mennerich

The Rhode Island General Assembly might be in the waning days of the 2015 session, but opponents to a Providence PawSox stadium are planning to ramp up their efforts to let lawmakers know they oppose a new deal if put forth -- or a special session to consider one.  

Following the delivery of thousands of signatures against a new stadium being built in Providence, a "Keep the PawSox in Pawtucket" rally has been scheduled for this Thursday at 5 P.M. at the Rhode Island State House. David Norton with the group "Organizing for Pawtucket" is coordinating the effort. 

"Once again we are encouraged to see democracy in action. Mr. Norton delivered over 13,000 petition signatures to our leaders last week and they still don't seem to get the message," said David Fisher of The Coalition Radio, who has been an outspoken stadium opponent. "The overwhelming public opinion on this issue is clear. We don't want this stadium, and if it means that the Red Sox organization leaves [Rhode Island], so be it."

Addressing Uncertainties

The new ownership group of the Pawtucket Red Sox have not put forth a new deal since the one first presented to the public in April -- and shot down by Governor Raimondo on following the Commerce Corporation meeting on April 30 -- but Norton says that opponents are "remaining vigilant."

"This rally is absolutely about showing assembly members (most especially Speaker Mattiello) and the Governor that we remain vigilant and highly motivated," said Norton. "This rally is being held to make it perfectly clear to our elected leaders that a very strong majority of Rhode Islanders are in opposition to moving the PawSox out of Pawtucket and in opposition to building a new stadium in Providence.  We wish to leave our elected officials with no excuse, no wiggle room and absolutely no way out of the decision that they may make concerning this issue!"  

Norton addressed the possibility of special session at the General Assembly -- following the adjournment of this current one -- and said that the opposition was prepared in the event one is scheduled

"We are planning for a special session to be held on this issue.  Speaker Mattiello has mentioned the possibility of public hearings and we are very much looking forward to the opportunity of highlighting how tone deaf our political leaders can be to the will of the people and the tax-payers in Rhode Island," said Norton. "This will be an opportunity for Rhode Islanders to vent their frustration not only on this particular issue but also on the more troubling problem of crony capitalism and suspicion of corruption and backroom deals at the State House."

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Opponents had packed the presentation of the first proposed deal to the RI Commerce Corporation on April 30.

Norton said he is expecting Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien, who was been opposed to the PawSox leaving the city, to speak at the rally on Thursday.

"We haven't confirmed many speakers at this point but we have reached out to both Democrats and Republicans in the assembly and at the City level in Pawtucket and Providence," said Norton. "Mayor Grebien will be speaking for sure, but we won't have the list of confirmed speakers until Tuesday.  It is sure to be an extremely diverse crowd politically: nobody likes this deal at all!"

Special Sessions - in Context

Historian and former Executive Director of Common Cause of Rhode Island H. Philip West Jr. provided historical context regarding recent special sessions at the Rhode Island General Assembly.

"Several times, the General Assembly has come back to override vetoes, but I don’t remember any topic-centered special sessions except the pension overhaul effort in 2011," said West. 

"In 2004, lawmakers returned to override Governor Carcieri’s veto of a proposed West Warwick casino. On the fly, Senator Steven Alves and casino backers tried to fix a fatal flaw [in] legislation passed earlier," said West. "Alves proposed a brand new constitutional amendment that crashed and burned. This was not a special session, but it offers an example of what to avoid."

"By contrast, the 2011 special session on pensions worked well because then-General Treasurer Gina Raimondo presented sound data and specific proposals that focused legislative minds on the state’s dire pension predicament," said West.

West said the two sessions offered two different perspectives -- and outcomes. 

"Those two legislative exercises represent the ends of a spectrum. The 2004 event was poorly planned, rushed, and chaotic. It became a disaster. The 2011 special session on pension reform appears to have focused minds and led to a sound result," said West. 

"I think there could be value in a special session: (1) if a specific plan were available well in advance to allow public discussion, (2) if public hearings drew testimony from technical experts and ordinary citizens, and (3) if the people of Rhode Island were convinced that the legislative result embodied sound policy," said West.


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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