PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Developers of the highly anticipated Pawtucket soccer stadium are grappling with the soaring cost of construction materials, raising new questions about the final price tag and overall size of the project.
Fortuitous Partners — developer of the massive project, originally proposed at a cost of $400 million — told Target 12 this week the coronavirus pandemic has affected expenses, with inflation affecting material prices and global supply issues have limited the availability of building materials.
“Based on this new reality, we went out to bid for construction based on ‘cost-value engineering,’ meaning we prioritized the most critical items in an attempt to lower costs during this initial phase,” Dan Kroeber, director of development and managing partner at Fortuitous, said in a statement.
Kroeber said company officials are now reviewing bids and expect to provide more information about costs and project size in the coming weeks.
Behind the scenes, the developers have been meeting with city and state development officials to try and figure out how to handle the soaring costs, according to Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien.
“It’s steel and the supply chain,” Grebien told Target 12 this week, confirming that the city was waiting to hear back from the developer about the new bids. “Once we know, we’ll get back to the table and make it all work. This is too big of a project not to make work.”
The cost issues came as a surprise to Pawtucket District 4 City Councilor Alexis Schuette, who represents the Seekonk riverbank where the stadium is supposed to go up. Schuette said the news was unfortunate considering the developer had set up an “extremely aggressive” construction timeline. The stadium is scheduled to be completed by the second quarter of 2023, according to a construction timeline the developer provided to the city last year.
“I can’t really comment on that because of the lack of communication,” Schuette said. “I would need them to be more communicative with me in advance of these things so I’m not hearing it from the press first, especially considering it’s squarely in my district and they have all of my contact information.”
Fortuitous is currently in Phase 1 of its development schedule, which includes hundreds of residential units, commercial space and a United Soccer League Championship soccer club that will anchor the mixed-use development. The overall plan was initially pitched to the public in December 2019 as the largest project in Pawtucket history.
Developers, city and state officials have long promised the project will help revitalize Pawtucket, which is still reeling from the loss of the Pawtucket Red Sox, a minor league baseball team that played there for decades. The team decided to relocate to Worcester after disagreements with state lawmakers over how to fund a new stadium.
Shortly after the PawSox’s announced departure, Fortuitous entered the scene. Led by Brett Johnson, a Brown University graduate, company officials joined state and local lawmakers in 2019 to announce the then-$400 million soccer stadium project at a highly publicized announcement.
The price tag was subsequently reduced, in part because the original proposal included a plan for the Apex department store land, which was subsequently taken off the table. (After years of sometimes acrimonious negotiations, Pawtucket officials recently reached a deal to acquire the Apex land.)
The rising costs of materials, meanwhile, raises new questions about whether the overall size of the project will be further reduced. The stadium itself was initially billed as having 10,000 seats, although a news release from the state last February suggested the minimum would be 7,000.
On Thursday, Kroeber specifically highlighted the rising price tag for seats.
“Just in the past few months, the cost of seats has risen 30%,” he said.
It remains unclear whether the situation might result in a bigger ask of city and state taxpayers. Currently, the developers are on the hook to pay for the stadium itself. But city and state have previously promised to pay at least $70 million to fund surrounding infrastructure improvements, and Phase 1 includes the development of open spaces, along with a walking path and pedestrian bridge.
Grebien and state officials have declined to speculate how this might affect public coffers. Pawtucket state Sen. Sandra Cano, who recently became the city’s commerce director, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.
“Costs related to construction have increased nationally and even globally – the state, city and development team are in regular communication about this important project to assess potential impacts these increased costs might have on the project,” Matt Sheaff, a spokesperson for Gov. Dan McKee, said in a statement.
Kroeber said Fortuitous leaders are prepared to make “an even greater investment in the privately financed stadium project to ensure that the facility is built to best serve our fans while generating the greatest possible benefit, and revenue, for the community.”
“As we have been from the start, we will be working with the city and the state over the coming weeks to understand and discuss the details of our public-private partnership in order to achieve everyone’s goals,” Kroeber said.
Eli Sherman (email@example.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter for 12 News. Connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook.
Tim White and Ted Nesi contributed to this report.