Aponte: Providence needs to be ‘made whole’ on PawSox deal

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New PawSox stadium rendering_163944

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The owners of the Pawtucket Red Sox won’t be the only ones seeking state support for a proposed stadium in downtown Providence. The city will need help too.

City Council President Luis Aponte said Wednesday Providence will request additional state aid if the proposed 10,000-seat ballpark is going to be exempt from property taxes for 30 years, as the ownership group led by attorney James Skeffington has now requested.

“If we aren’t going to tax the property, we need to be made whole,” Aponte told WPRI.com. “The state needs to be part of that conversation.”

Aponte signaled initial support for Skeffington’s proposal, but said to make the numbers work the state would need to increase its annual contribution to Providence through its payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) program or give the city a larger share of the meal and beverage tax for sales near the stadium.

In addition to a 30-year break on all property taxes, Skeffington said Wednesday the proposed $85-million stadium project would require $4 million annually from the state as well as 30-year land leases – for $1 a year – from the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission and Brown University, with an option to buy it at fair market value at the end of the lease.

The owners are also seeking a zoning change from the city to permit the park to be built on the site without a variance.

The three-story ballpark would put home plate at the intersection of Dyer, Eddy and Ship streets on the old I-195 land. In a statement, the team said it would feature “brick exterior walls, exposed structural steel, and high arched openings,” as well as an “iconic lighthouse” to reflect Rhode Island’s maritime heritage and an elevated walkway looking out over Providence.

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza joined Gov. Gina Raimondo, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Sen. President M. Teresa Paiva Weed in expressing support for keeping the team in Rhode Island, but all were noncommittal Wednesday about supporting Skeffington’s specific requests.

“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,” Elorza said in a statement. “We have coordinated to develop guidelines that ensure a thorough analysis of the stadium proposal.”

Elorza said the city’s review of the proposal will include examining the infrastructure requirements and environmental impact of the stadium in addition to conducting a cost-benefit analysis and traffic assessment. He did not say who will assist with the review, but Aponte has said he wants to appoint a working group to study the deal.

Raimondo said she wants to make sure the state can afford the proposal.

“The idea of a stadium in downtown Providence that can be used for multiple purposes is exciting,” she said in a statement. “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.”

Mattiello, who came out strongly in favor of the stadium when Skeffington and his partners bought the team in February, said he wants the House Finance Committee to “fully review all aspects of the proposal in an open and transparent hearing process before making a determination.” Paiva Weed released a similar statement, but indicated the park “potentially represents a significant investment in Rhode Island.”

Reaction from rank-and-file lawmakers was mixed. Rep. John Carnevale, D-Providence, said he expected his fellow House members would eventually join him in supporting the proposal, but Rep. Doreen Costa, R-North Kingstown, said she doesn’t think the state can afford the deal.

Continue the discussion on FacebookDan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

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