Gov. Raimondo signs PawSox bill in hopes of keeping team in the city

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PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Gina Raimondo signed legislation Friday aimed at keeping the Pawtucket Red Sox in the city, turning attention to whether the team will accept the plan to build a new ballpark or take an offer to move to Worcester.

“The PawSox belong in Pawtucket,” Raimondo said in a statement. “No one wants them to end up in Worcester. This legislation gives Mayor Grebien an opportunity to work with the team over the coming months to keep them here, and it gives Pawtucket a shot at a meaningful economic revitalization.”

Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien, one of the biggest cheerleaders for the new stadium, said he’s met with team leaders several times this week and is “optimistic” about Pawtucket’s chances at retaining the minor league ball club. 

“This has been a long time coming,” he told Eyewitness News after Raimondo signed the bill. “We’re very excited that this legislation has finally moved along. I thank Governor Raimondo for her leadership. Now, it’s time for us to get on with the business of moving this city forward.”

In a new statement Friday night, PawSox spokesperson Bill Wanless said: “We recognize the step that Governor Raimondo has taken today by signing the proposed Pawtucket ballpark legislation, giving the parties an opportunity to vet the numerous issues presented. This past week, we met with city officials and also with city and state officials to continue discussions regarding the legislation that was passed late last Friday night. Analysis and talks will continue over the holiday week.”

“They have not closed the door,” Grebien told Eyewitness News on Thursday after those meetings took place. “They are definitely having discussions with Worcester and they are definitely having discussions with us.”

MassLive reported Friday that Worcester has spent $178,000 in consulting fees in eight months as part of the city’s effort to woo the team to Central Massachusetts.

The bill, which cleared the General Assembly last week, calls for a new $83-million ballpark to be built on the Apex site in Pawtucket. Most of the money – $71 million – would be borrowed by the quasi-public Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency; $33 million of that debt would be repaid by the team, and $38 million would be repaid with state and city tax revenue. The team would cover the other $12 million.

Raimondo’s Democratic primary opponent Matt Brown blasted her decision to sign the legislation, saying in a statement: “Rather than negotiate a better deal, she has capitulated to the whims of billionaires and forced Rhode Island taxpayers to help pay for a stadium the team’s owners should pay for themselves. Like many Rhode Islanders I want the PawSox to stay in Pawtucket, but not when it means more unnecessary taxpayer handouts to wealthy corporations.”

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