PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Call it a brush-back pitch from Providence City Councilman Sam Zurier.
The East Side councilman lashed out Sunday against the proposed $85-million downtown ballpark project, a day before the new owners of the Pawtucket Red Sox were scheduled to appear in front of the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission to discuss their plans to move the team to Providence.
“Two weeks ago, the team presented a proposal it touted as a home run for the city and the state,” Zurier, D-Ward 2, wrote in his weekly letter to constituents. “A preliminary review leaves it looking more like a wild pitch.”
- Read: Councilman Zurier’s letter
- Related: PawSox want $4 million a year from state for new stadium
- Also: Council President wants Providence ‘made whole’ on PawSox deal
- More: Everything you need to know about James Skeffington
The team’s ownership group, led by attorney James Skeffington and Boston Red Sox President Larry Lucchino, have said they will spend approximately $85 million on the project, but have requested $120 million from the state over 30 years. The owners have also requested the stadium be tax exempt for three decades.
“I believe there are terms under which Providence and Rhode Island would benefit from having a new stadium; however, they are very different from the team’s proposal,” Zurier wrote. Ever the baseball fan, Zurier referred to the team’s attempt to secure financial support from the state and city as a “double steal.”
Although Zurier estimated that a property valued at $85 million would pay more than $3 million in property taxes each year if its owners received no tax break, the team’s spending plan is not solely for a ballpark.
The $85 million estimated cost of the stadium project breaks down as $70 million for the actual ballpark, $5 million to move Narragansett Bay Commission and National Grid utilities located underneath the site, and $10 million for the team’s share of the new parking garage. The owners initially said they want to lease the state-owned land for the stadium for $1 a year, but announced over the weekend they would consider buying the property.
An economic-impact study commissioned by the team from the consulting firm Brailsford & Dunlavey estimated games played in the new park will generate $12.3 million in direct spending and about $2 million a year in additional state tax revenue, which Skeffington said would further reduce the out-of-pocket cost of the park to taxpayers to about $2 million a year.
Zurier is the first member of the City Council to publicly oppose the proposed ballpark. Council President Luis Aponte has said he supports the idea of building a stadium in downtown, but made it clear he expects Providence to “be made whole” if it is going to allow the team to pay no property taxes for 30 years.
To make the project work, Aponte has said 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.
If the team is going to move to Providence, at least part of the deal must be approved by the council.
While the General Assembly would need to approve a 30-year lease for the team, the City Council will be asked to sign off on the 30-year tax abatement, according to Patti Doyle, a spokesperson for the ownership group. The council would also be asked to support a zoning change that would allow a stadium in downtown.
Mayor Jorge Elorza has called the chance to bring the PawSox to Providence a “significant and exciting development opportunity for our city and state,” but has indicated he wants to ensure leaders fully analyze the proposal before making any commitments.
Zurier said he plans to submit a resolution asking the team’s owners to meet with the City Council.
Continue the discussion on FacebookDan McGowan ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowanTed Nesi contributed to this report.