A ballpark in downtown Providence, Rhode Island, would be an economic catalyst for the city, according to the new owners of the Pawtucket Red Sox, but members of a state commission cast doubt Monday on the benefits of a new stadium.
Principal owner James Skeffington and co-owner Larry Lucchino, president of the Boston Red Sox, accompanied by a team of consultants, pitched their formal proposal for a "multi-use" stadium to the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission, the state agency that owns the former highway land they want to build on.
"I can promise you this will be a gem of a ballpark," Lucchino told the seven-member commission.
The ballpark would generate $12.3 million annually for the city and state, according to the owners of the Triple-A franchise. But it would come at a cost to Rhode Islanders, who would pay approximately $120 million in taxes over 30 years in order for the state to lease the ballpark, according to the team's proposal.
On Saturday, the owners announced they'd consider buying the land along the Providence River, rather than leasing it as they had originally proposed. They also requested a meeting with Gov. Gina Raimondo, which she has agreed to, according to Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor, who attended the meeting.
While the PawSox owners reiterated - as they have since buying the team in February for an undisclosed amount - that a stadium would stimulate economic activity in the capital city, some commissioners were skeptical.
"Clearly, if the state is willing to sign a 30-year commitment, there are much more direct ways of attracting life sciences and high-tech companies," said commissioner Barrett Bready.
Bready's comment was met by loud applause and cheers from some members of the audience, many of whom held up signs expressing their opposition to using public money to fund the stadium.
"They're just trying to get money from the taxpayers," said Barrington resident Loredana Lister, who held up a sign reading "No welfare for Lord Skeffington" during much of the meeting.
A commercial real estate owner, Lister said she'd prefer to see taxpayer money go toward repairing the state's infrastructure or attracting corporations that would bring good jobs.
Pryor said after the meeting that he and the commission would need to further review the proposal to make sure it's "fair for Rhode Islanders," and in a statement released following the meeting, Raimondo echoed his sentiments, saying taxpayers would pay "most, if not all of the cost of building a new stadium" according to the initial proposal. The commission has hired its own consultants to evaluate whether a ballpark would be the best use of the land.
"We believe there is a version of this arrangement that is more fair to the Rhode Island taxpayer," Pryor said.