PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — The plans to build a waterfront soccer stadium in Pawtucket are officially moving forward, but not everyone is thrilled with the $27 million investment.
The R.I. Commerce Corp. Board narrowly approved the amended plan Monday night, with Gov. Dan McKee providing a tiebreaking vote to push the Tidewater Landing project forward.
The developer of the Tidewater Landing project, Fortuitous Partners, originally asked for $30 million after the price tag mushroomed from $284 million to $344 million due to inflation and supply chain-related issues.
The $27 million will be put toward constructing the 10,000-seat soccer stadium, along with revitalizing the downtown riverfront with commercial property, housing units and other retail space.
In a joint statement following the vote, McKee, Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien and Brett Johnson of Fortuitous Partners described the project as a “gamechanger” for the city and state.
“A multi-use stadium will be the anchor of the development which will include housing, restaurants, retail stores, and recreational amenities,” the statement reads. “Rhode Islanders and visitors will be able to attend a soccer game or a concert, enjoy the Riverwalk, grab a bite, or call Tidewater Landing home.”
But not everyone is onboard.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Ashley Kalus slammed McKee’s decision to move forward with the project.
“Despite Rhode Islanders getting crushed by inflation and our country heading toward a recession, Dan McKee is determined to give out more goodies than a McDonald’s drive-thru,” Kalus said in a statement. “Rather than providing relief to families in need, the McKee Administration seems more concerned with doling out taxpayer dollars to insiders.”
Dr. Luis Daniel Muñoz, who is one of several candidates who will face McKee in the Democratic primary, said the governor is putting the state on a path to “38 Studios 2.0.”
“He chose corporate interests over the interests of Rhode Island taxpayers,” Muñoz said in a statement. “Hoping that people will fill the stadium is not an evidence-based approach to economic development.”
McKee said the amended plan includes a number of stipulations proponents argue will protect taxpayers, including a clause that prohibits the state and city from covering additional costs connected to the stadium.
It also prevents the state from paying for the project until there is a permanent certificate of occupancy and requires a 30-year commitment from a USL soccer team.
“The taxpayers are protected,” McKee said. “There were all sorts of precautionary measures made, but let’s not lose sight that this is a transformational project for the city.”
The governor argues the project will create thousands of jobs and will keep the state’s economy in a good place. The groundbreaking ceremony for the stadium is scheduled for Aug. 12.