Lucchino responds to skepticism over proposed Providence ballpark

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Boston Red Sox and PawSox owner Larry Lucchino_167441

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The new owners of the Pawtucket Red Sox are being met with skepticism over their plan to build a new stadium for the team in Providence, but Boston Red Sox President Larry Lucchino is steadfast in his belief that the proposal would be an economic win for both the city and the state.

The ownership group made their formal pitch before the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission on Monday, laying out their proposal for the state-owned land. The owners hoped to lease the riverfront property for $1 a year so they could build a new $85 million stadium on their own dime, but they also sought $4 million a year from taxpayers to subsidize it.

Gov. Gina Raimondo shot down the group’s initial request, calling it unfair for taxpayers.

“I’d love to keep the PawSox in Rhode Island, but it has to be a good deal for the taxpayers, and the deal that they’ve initially talked about, I don’t is think is fair for the taxpayers,” she said. “It’s one where they’re asking the state to put up all the money and the owners have all the profits.”

Lucchino, one of the team’s new owners, argued Monday the project would be a clear economic engine for the local economy, and not just through baseball.

“We have to build a ballpark that has multiple uses, that can attract football and could attract concerts, that can have some art events at the thing,” he told Eyewitness News in an interview. “Make it an major civic center for Providence.”

Along with the request for $120 million from the state over the next 30 years, the team also wants the stadium to be tax-exempt.

“If there are real – and I believe there are – real and demonstrative public benefits, that should justify, in our view, a public investment and a sharing of the risk, and we’re prepared to take a lot of the risks on ourselves,” Lucchino added.

Lucchino believes the new park will not only boost the economy, but also revitalize downtown Providence. He hopes to bring a million people to the capital city by generating small businesses and jobs.

But a growing number of politicians have come out against the proposal, including Providence City Councilman Sam Zurier, who over the weekend called the plan a “wild pitch.”

Lucchino, who helped build parks in San Diego and Baltimore, said skepticism is normal.

“I understand there’s a little bit of human nature that is kind of resistant to change, an affection for the familiar and all that, but there are times when an opportunity presents itself, and this is one of those times. I mean, this site is sensational,” he said.

Following the response from the governor, new PawSox president Jim Skeffington began working on a revised proposal, saying the team now wants to buy the land rather than lease it.

Raimondo said she looks forward to meeting privately with the owners this week to further discuss the plan.

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