PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - Rhode Island beat out other places including Louisiana and some Canadian provinces to become the new home of Curt Schilling’s video game company, 38 Studios , by offering a $75 million loan guarantee, the former Red Sox pitcher said Wednesday.
The company has been in discussions for nearly two years with different jurisdictions about the possibility of relocating, Schilling said during an interview on sports radio station WEEI’s “Dennis & Callahan” show. Louisiana was “very aggressive,” he said.
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Although Schilling “absolutely” wished Massachusetts had offered incentives to keep 38 Studios in the Bay State, only U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., made a significant effort to explore the possibility, he said.
“We made every effort to make that happen, and it was not going to happen,” he said. Officials in Massachusetts have said the state would never provide as large a guarantee as $75 million to a single company.
Default ‘staggeringly’ unlikely
Schilling, 38 Studios’ founder and chairman, also strongly defended the agreement approved by the R.I. Economic Development Corporation’s board. Critics including gubernatorial candidates Lincoln Chafee and Ken Block say state taxpayers are taking on too much risk by backing a company that has no products or revenue yet.
The EDC’s board spent eight months vetting 38 Studios before approving the guarantee Monday.
“The chain of events that would have to happen for one dollar of taxpayer money to be spent to repay this loan – it’s pretty staggering,” Schilling said.
Schilling also said that during negotiations with the state, he promised R.I. House Speaker Gordon Fox he would not use Rhode Island’s offer of the $75 million guarantee to get a better deal out of one of the six other states in talks with 38 Studios.
If 38 Studios is successful, it will help turn the Providence area into a hub for game development, which could create close to 2,000 jobs, Schilling said. The company currently employs about 200 workers who make an average of $75,200 a year, he said. It is likely to lease a headquarters soon “somewhere in downtown Providence,” he said.
EA investing $50 million
Schilling said his company’s deal with Electronic Arts Inc. , the nation’s second-largest video game publisher, shows its potential. He predicted 38 Studios would become a multibillion-dollar enterprise eventually.
Electronic Arts executives have “looked at us, they’ve done their due diligence, and they’ve bet what’ll probably be somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 million that we’re going to do well,” Schilling said.
He also said he “won’t allow” the move from Maynard, Mass., to Providence to prevent 38 Studios from releasing its first game, “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning,” on schedule in September 2011. The single-player game will be released by Electronic Arts for Xbox, Playstation and PCs.
Critics ‘don’t understand’
Schilling dismissed Chafee’s comments , which the former senator later took back, alleging that the pitcher had painted the famous “bloody sock” he wore in the 2004 American League Championship Series.
But he did take umbrage at skepticism of the deal from Chafee and Jeremy Kapstein, a Red Sox executive who is running for lieutenant governor in Rhode Island.
“When you hear them talk, for me it’s frustrating because they just don’t understand the ins and outs of the entire business deal,” Schilling said.
Asked if he “liked hanging out with these geeks” who play video games, Schilling responded: “I’ve been one of these guys my whole life.” During his teams’ road trips, “instead of a hanging out at a strip club, I was in my room being a geek,” he said.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Curt Schilling wore the "bloody sock" in the 2004 World Series; he wore it during Game 6 of that year's American League Championship Series.