PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — The fate of a new Pawtucket Red Sox stadium now lies in the hands of Gov. Gina Raimondo and the team itself, both of whom say they are reviewing legislation that was passed by the General Assembly late Friday night.
“I have to look at it before I give you an answer,” Raimondo told Eyewitness News Monday morning when asked if she would sign the bill. “As I’ve said all along, I want the PawSox to stay in Pawtucket and if we can do it in a way that protects the taxpayers, I’d be all for it.”
A spokesperson for the PawSox said the club’s leadership would meet Pawtucket officials this week.
“The PawSox immediately began to study the enabling legislation when we received it late Friday morning,” spokesperson Bill Wanless said. “The club and the City of Pawtucket will meet promptly to begin the discussion of its contents.”
Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien, who has lobbied for the stadium as a way to boost the city’s economy, also confirmed the meeting would take place.
The legislation passed shortly before midnight Friday night was the culmination of years of debate and discussion in Rhode Island about whether to build a new stadium, renovate McCoy or do nothing, risking the team’s departure from the Ocean State.
The team and Grebien threw their support behind a new stadium in downtown Pawtucket on the Apex site, dubbed “Ballpark at Slater Mill,” but an initial bill passed by the Senate in January and backed by the governor gained little traction in the House.
House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s leadership team instead put forth legislation that changed the financing structure, putting the risk on private investors instead of taxpayers if the stadium doesn’t generate the expected revenues.
The revised bill, which passed the House Friday evening and the Senate hours later, was estimated to cost between $55 million and $87 million more than the original Senate version over time in interest costs on the riskier bonds.
The cost to build the stadium itself is estimated to be $83 million, with the team contributing $45 million and paying for any construction overruns. State and city revenues from the ballpark and surrounding development would pay for $38 million. The team would put up $12 million in cash to start and the rest would be borrowed by the quasi-public Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency, which would also own the stadium.
Opponents including two candidates for governor, Democrat Matt Brown and Republican Patricia Morgan, have argued the team’s owners should pay in full to build its own stadium.
“If a new stadium were a good money-making venture, they would be stepping up to the plate,” Morgan said in a news release Monday urging Raimondo to veto the bill.
Under the current proposal, the team would sign a 30-year lease to use the stadium, which city officials have said would be open year-round for other uses.
With the General Assembly session over, Raimondo said this is likely the last chance to keep the team in Rhode Island.
“I think this is it,” she said. “So we’ll see…this week, we’ll see if there’s a deal to be done.”