PawSox pull the plug on 195 stadium idea

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — After weeks of setbacks, the Pawtucket Red Sox announced Saturday night the team is no longer looking to build a new stadium on the I-195 land in downtown Providence, raising new questions about whether the club will stay in Rhode Island.

Patti Doyle, a spokesperson for the organization, said in a statement the team has decided to suspend its pursuit of the riverfront land. She said the decision came after Gov. Gina Raimondo told the team the land is not suitable for the construction of a new ballpark.

“We believe the site along the Providence River is exceptional, and it would have been a win-win-win for the state, the city, and the PawSox, and we tried hard to bring it to fruition,” said PawSox Chairman Larry Lucchino. “We have received word that the site still confronts certain obstacles and lacks the necessary support, and we have been urged to consider other possible sites.”

Saturday’s announcement marks a major setback for the team’s new owners, who took control in February and immediately said they wanted to move to a new stadium in Providence. The proposal ran into huge public opposition after the owners initially sought $120 million in taxpayer subsidies as well as free waterfront land, and a revised proposal was never unveiled.

“We will now begin to consider all other options and proposals we receive, including City officials’ suggestion of potential other sites in Providence,” Lucchino said. “We thank I-195 Chairman Joe Azrack and economist Andrew Zimbalist for their months of dedicated, professional negotiations on the state’s behalf that led us to a draft agreement in late July.” Details about the latter agreement were never released.

One alternative location in Providence that has been repeatedly suggested is the former Victory Plating headquarters site, which Rhode Island Hospital purchased earlier this month. It’s unclear whether the hospital’s parent group, Lifespan, would consider allowing the property to be used for a ballpark.

House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said Friday negotiations between the team and the state had stopped, soon after it was disclosed that Brown University wanted $15 million for the part of the proposed ballpark land that it owns.

Mattiello released a statement Saturday saying he was disappointed about the failed proposal.

“Unfortunately, different entities put artificially high costs on a deal, which proved to be insurmountable,” he said, an apparent reference to Brown’s demands as well as those of city officials in Providence.

Russell Carey, Brown’s executive vice president, said in a letter that surfaced earlier this month the PawSox had proposed a long-term lease of its land that “equates to approximately one-fourth of the $15 million value we indicated would be required for Brown to relinquish control,” indicating the team offered Brown roughly $3.75 million.

Carey said Brown “would not dedicate time and resources” to assisting in putting together a different deal because of the stadium project’s “low strategic importance to Brown,” though the university would examine one if it were put together independently and met the school’s financial requirements.

Now that the 195 proposal is dead, PawSox spokesperson Patti Doyle said Saturday the team is still willing to look at other spots in Providence or other cities. She didn’t rule out the possibility of the team leaving Rhode Island.

“There are no geographic boundaries on where they will consider,” she said.

In the meantime, Doyle said the team will continue to prepare for another season at McCoy Stadium as they keep planning and hearing ideas about the future of the franchise.

“The direction the Pawtucket Red Sox take now is entirely up to them,” Mattiello said. “I continue to believe that the PawSox are a valuable asset to Rhode Island and I will consider other viable options that the team may bring forward.”

Critics of the 195 stadium proposal were quick to celebrate their victory.

“We did it!” state Rep. Aaron Regunberg, D-Providence, wrote in an email to his constituents Saturday.

“I’m still a bit spellbound,” he continued. “As the first legislator (as far as I know) to publicly come out in opposition to the deal back in April, I was ready to organize against it, but I would be lying if I said I felt optimistic about our chances of stopping this train. But I was wrong, for one reason and one reason only – the power of the public.”Ted Nesi contributed to this report.

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