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October 22, 2018

Pawsox Stadium plan stalls, despite team ownership willing to pay more than half the cost


The Pawtucket Red Sox stadium plan has stalled, as leading legislators said they don’t have enough time to consider the proposal in the waning days of this legislative session, with opponents suggesting the millionaire owners should finance the ballpark themselves.

Senate President Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello, and Governor Gina Raimondo all said more time is needed to consider the proposal, while Republican legislative leadership said the plan shouldn’t be considered at all.

All this in spite of the reality that the Pawtucket Red Sox ownership is prepared to invest more of their own money in the stadium project compared to similar undertakings in both the International League, where the Pawsox play, and the Pacific Coast League, the other AAA baseball league in North America.

Many of the projects have been funded by predominately state, county and/or city funds. And many of the stadiums are owned by the communities, and were developed as part of larger downtown redevelopment projects.

That’s the proposed case in Pawtucket, where the stadium is estimated to cost $76 million ($158 million considering interest on the 30-year bonds), with about an equal amount earmarked for a combination of retail, commercial and housing development in downtown Pawtucket.

Clouding the issue is a projected sizeable budget deficit, not only threatening the stadium project, but also likely to derail the governor’s free tuition program, and significantly modify the speaker’s proposal to phase out the auto tax.

The Pawtucket Red Sox current lease at McCoy Stadium extends through the 2020 season. Team officials have not indicated what they will do if the current proposal fails.

We reviewed all other AAA baseball teams, their stadiums, and the financial agreements, relying primly on the Sports Facilities Report, a product of the National Sports Law Institute of Marquette University Law School.

There are three AAA leagues – the International and Pacific Coast Leagues, and the Mexican League. With the exception of two stadiums in the Mexican League, one built in 1932 and another in 1938, McCoy Stadium is the oldest, built in 1942 for $1.5 million, $500,000 of which was funded by the WPA. We could not find stadium funding information for teams in the Mexican League, but found the information for the International and Pacific Coast Leagues. Here’s the information, primarily from Sports Facilities Report, for stadiums that opened after 2000.

  • Charlotte Knights (Chicago White Sox)
    • Cost of Stadium: $54 millon
    • Date Built: 2014
    • Financing: City Charlotte funded $7.25 million through hotel taxes; Center City Partners, $750,000; Mecklenburg County $8 million; $1 a year lease o the $24 million county-owned site; the remainder through private funds.

 

  • Columbus Clippers (Cleveland Indians)
    • Cost of Stadium: $70 million
    • Date Built: 2009
    • Financing: $40 million private funds; $7 million state grant; proceeds from ticket and concession sales.

 

  • Gwinnett Braves (Atlanta Braves)
    • Cost of Stadium: $64 million
    • Date Built: 2009
    • Financing: Gwinnett County incurred about $77.5 million of debt, which will be paid back over 30 years. Additionally, rental-car tax, and taxpayer money, will be used to pay of stadium debt.

 

  • Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (Philadelphia Phillies)
    • Cost of Stadium: $50.25 million
    • Date Built: 2008
    • Financing: Pennsylvania funded a third of the cost, while Lehigh Valley funded the remainder through bonds and the hotel tax.
    • Attendance has soared, with the Iron Pigs drawing 600,000 plus fans for more than six years in a row.

 

  • Louisville Bats (Cincinnati Reds))
    • Cost of Stadium: $39 million
    • Date Built: 2000
    • Financing: Partnership of the city of Louisville, the Bats, Hillerich & Bradsby, the Brown Foundation, Humana Inc. and Humana Founation.
    • A major revitalization initiation is underway, a project that would include renovations to the stadium, a 10,000 seat soccer stadium and considerable other development. The projected cost is $200 million.

 

  • Toledo Mud Hens (Detroit Tigers)
    • Cost of Stadium: $39.2 million
    • Date Built: 2002
    • Financing: Series of private revenues, including naming righs, advertising and sponsorship, premium seating sales.

 

  • Albuquerque Isotopes (Los Angeles Dodgers)
    • Cost of Stadium: $25 million
    • Date Built: 2003
    • Financing: $10 million general obligations bonds, $15 million loan from the New Mexico Finance Authority

 

  • El Paso Chihuahuas (San Diego Padres)
    • Cost of Stadium: $74 million
    • Date Built: 2014
    • Financing: Publicly financed through city-issued bonds paid back through hotel tax, rent payments by owners, ticket sales, parking revenues.

 

  • Fresno Grizzlies (San Francisco Giants)
    • Cost of Stadium: $46 million
    • Date Built: 2002
    • Financing: Publicly financed through city redevelopment agency bonds.

 

  • Memphis Redbirds (St. Louis Cardinals)
    • Cost of Stadium: $80.5 million
    • Date Built: 2000
    • Financing: Privately financed through issuance of $72 million in tax-exempt bonds by Center City Revenue Finance Corp., which are being repaid with a sales tax rebate for items sold in the ballpark. Memphis and Shelby Counties each paid $4.25 million to buy the land and clear utilities.

 

  • Omaha Storm Chasers (Kansas City Royals)
    • Cost of Stadium: $29.045 million
    • Date Built: 2011
    • Financing: Sarpy County bonds $27,055,000. Team contributed $2.35 million.

 

  • Reno Aces (Arizona Diamondbacks)
    • Cost of Stadium: $58 million
    • Date Built: 2009
    • Financing: Publicly financed by the City of Reno, Washoe County and privately financed by the Aces.

 

  • Round Rock Express (Texas Rangers)
    • Cost of Stadium: $25 million
    • Date Built: 2000
    • Financing: City of Round Rock contributed $8.4 million from revenue bonds backed by hotel-motel tax. Ownership funded the rest.

 

  • Sacramento River Cats
    • Cost of Stadium: $29.5 million
    • Date Built: 2000
    • Financing: Bonds from the River City Stadium Financing Authority and paid back from concessions, tickets, advertising, and other ballpark revenues.

 

Photo: Pawsox owners and Pawtucket officials announce they want to keep the team in Pawtucket. (Photo Credit: Pawtucket Red Sox)

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