Stadium opponents rally at waterfront land eyed by PawSox

Photo: WPRI / Brad Flanagan

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP/WPRI) — This land is your land. This land is my land.

But it was not PawSox land on Monday when opponents of a proposed baseball stadium in downtown Providence came together to protest at the land being eyed for the ballpark.

They said the land should be used for a public park, as it was intended.

About 150 stadium naysayers — some flying kites, others admiring the skyline from beach chairs — gathered at the prime riverfront land that used to be the site of Interstate 195. The I-195 Commission, a state agency, bought most of the land and is reselling it, although some was given for free to use as a public park, including the 5-acre parcel the Pawtucket Red Sox, a Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, want to build on.

Eyewtiness News reached out to the PawSox Monday for comment. They released a statement, saying in part:

We’re glad there was so much enjoyment at the site today. It well demonstrates what we’ve been saying all along – the site has incredible potential to serve as a Triple A ballpark, activating urban land in a way that could contribute meaningfully to the economy, while also preserving some 3 acres of park space within the ballpark for the enjoyment of all and for activities such as kite flying and whiffle ball which we saw today.

Johnston resident Don Bianco said taking the land away from residents who want an open space public park would be “borderline criminal.”

“There will never again be the possibility of a waterfront park in downtown Providence,” Bianco said.

The PawSox launched a public relations push earlier this summer it calls a “walking tour,” in which team representatives invite the public to visit the parcel on most Monday evenings to hear about the proposed stadium, but it appeared that no PawSox representatives were there Monday.

The PawSox ownership group, led by Boston Red Sox President Larry Lucchino, made a pitch in April for a new stadium, asking for $120 million in state subsidies and the 5-acre parcel for free. That proposal died after strenuous public opposition. Since then, Lucchino and state officials have been meeting behind closed doors to craft a revised proposal.

But for many opponents, any stadium proposal from the PawSox owners asking for land or taxpayer money will be unacceptable.

“I find it insulting they want public land to build a private stadium,” said Ed Fava, of Coventry.

As a group of protesters sang “This Land is Your Land” a few feet away, Fava said neither the PawSox nor state officials have asked the public what it wants.

“No one has ever said, `A stadium,”‘ he said.

Federal highway regulators have told state officials that if the PawSox build a stadium on land that was supposed to be a public park, the land will have to be sold at fair market value first, which could add millions to the bottom line. The commission would also have to identify 14.7 acres for open space as part of the new land use plan if it uses some of the already designated open space for a ballpark.

The current market value of the land is not clear. The commission in January agreed to sell a smaller parcel that is not on the waterfront for $750,000. The 5-acre riverfront parcel eyed by the PawSox is 15 times that size.

House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello will meet with Gov. Gina Raimondo on Wednesday evening to discuss the revised terms of the proposed stadium, Mattiello spokesman Larry Berman said on Monday.

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