Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien says time is running out to strike a deal with the PawSox and keep the baseball team in Rhode Island. He says if lawmakers fail to approve the latest proposal on the table, Pawtucket is ready to take matters into its own hands.
Grebien is urging the General Assembly to move swiftly on a proposal for $44 million in public financing to help the minor league build a new stadium in the city. If not, he says Pawtucket is willing to take on the full public commitment to build the ballpark, by taking out bonds to pay for the stadium.
In exchange, the mayor says, the city would ask to keep the more than $2.2 million the stadium is expected to generate in sales and income taxes each year.
Some legislators seem lukewarm on the deal in front of them, including House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello.
“Everybody loves the PawSox, everybody wants them to stay in the state of Rhode Island and they’re hoping they stay,” Mattiello said during a recent interview with RIPR. “But they don’t want public monies to go into keeping them in the state of Rhode Island,”
Rhode Island GOP Chairman Brandon Bell reiterated his disapproval of public funding in a statement. Bell contends the new Senate Finance committee proposal is a worse deal than a previous version because the taxpayer subsidy increased from $38 million to $44 million.
“On top of it, the voters still have no say on whether they want to be responsible to pay for millions in new debt,” Bell said.
Grebien insists the investment will pay for itself. Without it, he says the PawSox could move to another city. Worcester, Massachusetts is reportedly pursuing the team, though no details of a potential offer have emerged.
At a press conference Tuesday, Grebien stressed a PawSox departure would be a serious blow to the city, which has struggled to find a place in the new economy.
“This is state government helping a distressed community create new revenue right, so we don’t have to be a distressed community,” Grebien said. “The money that is being put into this is going to generate new dollars for the state and the city.”