Raimondo Says Stadium Deal Not Fair; Owners Demand State Funding
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Following the unveiling of the proposal of an $85 million stadium with a thirty year lease deal that would cost taxpayers $4 million a year, the owners presented their vision - and demands -- to the 195 Commission on Monday at the Commerce RI office.
"We can't do it by ourselves," said Red Sox CEO and PawSox owner Larry Luchino. "It requires public-private partnership in this day and the age."
Raimondo, who wasn't present on Monday, issued a statement following the meeting in which she deemed the current proposal unfair to the state.
"I would love it if the PawSox stayed in Rhode Island, and the idea of a multi-use stadium in downtown Providence is exciting. But it's my job to look out for Rhode Island taxpayers, and I take that job very seriously," said Raimondo. "From what I understand of the owners' initial proposal, it appears that Rhode Island taxpayers would pay most, if not all of the cost of building the new stadium, yet the owners would stand to receive all of the profits. That isn't fair for Rhode Islanders."
"We look forward to receiving much more information about alternative financial proposals, and I remain committed to working with Mayor Elorza, the Speaker, and the Senate President to evaluate whether we can find a framework with the team's owners that will benefit Rhode Island," said Raimondo.
New Details Emerge
"We need to ensure this a fair deal for the people of Rhode Island as well as the team's owners," said Azrak.
New information emerged Monday including parking, traffic, and visitor expectations, which did little to placate the opponents who filled the back of the room with signs.
"We're still in the early innings of this game," Lucchino told the Commission. "We deserve some blame for not enumerating the public benefits that flow from this. This is an urban planning asset for you -- an opportunity to do something with this land, [for] the ancillary development."
195 Commission member Barrett Bready voiced concerns about the use -- and cost -- of the land during the question and answer segment.
"You're putting forward the ballpark as a way of attracting companies here. But clearly if the state is willing to sign a 30 year commitment at four to five million [a] year, there are much more direct ways to attract life sciences," said Bready, to applause in the audience.
"You have to account for other private development that this creates," Skeffington responded. "We're making it in a way that will continue..future growth. Yes, there are other ways you can spend the money -- but there aren't other ways to bring in one million people a year downtown."
Opponents Turn out
The group included representatives from RI Progressive Democrats, RI Republican Party, Green Party of RI, DARE, RI Tea Party, Occupy Providence, and the Sierra Club.
Dave Fisher, co-host of The Coalition radio, spoke to the movement.
"We hear the owners are still committed to the 195 land, but we contend this isn't the highest nor the best use of the land," said Fisher. "And we continue to reiterate that any taxpayer dollars that would be acceptable for the stadium are...0.0."
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.
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."
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."
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."
"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
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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.”
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."
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.”
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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