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June 20, 2018

Rendering of 'Ballpark at Slater Mill'

Photo Credit: Pawtucket Red Sox

Just My Opinion: Putting off a vote on a new Pawsox Stadium … Really?


The bases are loaded, two outs, and you’re behind by a run. What do you do? Call a time out?

That’s what our state’s politicians have done in the raging debate over building a new stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox – a stadium that would replace a 1942 relic that is the third oldest in all of AAA baseball. The two older stadiums are in the Mexican League.

At the core is how much should the state invest in the project, whether the state will ever recoup that money, and, ultimately, who blinks first?

Based on similar projects in the International and Pacific Coast Leagues, at least those since 2000, it appears that much is consistent. In many instances, public entities have invested much more than the ownerships, and in the deal that’s on the table now the ownership of the Pawsox is prepared to invest at a higher level than many of the other AAA stadium projects.

The cost of the stadium, some $73 million, is consistent with other similar projects, even if you add in another $10 million for the land. And central is the fact the stadium is only part of a downtown reclamation project that would add housing, retail, office and other space to a city that’s basically the gateway to Rhode Island.

There are so many intangibles about the Pawsox that add to the fabric of Rhode Island, and that too needs to be considered.

While attendance has declined in recent years, much of that can be attributed to a tired stadium that lacks many of the amenities that new minor league parks, like Charlotte and elsewhere have added.

I recognize that legislators have a lot on the agenda as the session winds down, a lot that key players have put as their personal priorities. For the governor, it’s college free tuition. For the speaker, it’s the phase out of the car tax. Then there’s the recreational marijuana study commission, and mandated sick leave, and much more.

So, stay in session. Get the job done. The only time sensitive issue is passage of a budget by the beginning of the fiscal year. The rest can survive another couple of weeks in session to resolve significant outstanding issues, and that includes the stadium. Resolve it – one way or the other.

If it doesn’t make fiscal sense for Rhode Island, let’s say so and let the Pawsox ownership move on. I wonder if Kraft and the Patriots would consider a 9,500-seat stadium at Patriot Place, and built with, in part, a significant investment by Pawsox ownership. A 9,500-seat stadium would be much better suited for the soccer team, and Patriots Place offers the kind of atmosphere that the Pawsox ownership desires.

The Pawsox are committed to McCoy Stadium through the 2020 season. It’s not as if they don’t have options if a Rhode Island deal collapses.

And, one more thought. That recreational marijuana issue. Not sure what the legislature is studying that has not already been scrutinized in Massachusetts, where it’s been approved, or Connecticut, where it appears there is growing support in the legislature to legalize recreational use of marijuana. Or in the myriad of states that already have approved it, are collecting taxes, and have the data to show whether legalizing recreational marijuana leads to more crime, greater drug use, or unsafe roads.

If Rhode Island is standing on moralistic grounds, please be assured that anyone who wants to use marijuana can find it easily

Just my opinion …

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