Study: Hotel, housing could accompany proposed PawSox stadium

Grebien suggests numbers 'point to the Apex site being superior to Tidewater'

Renderings show development ideas for two potential PawSox stadium sites: At left, the Apex site; at right, the Tidewater site.

PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) – A hotel, retail space and residential units could all accompany a potential new PawSox stadium in downtown Pawtucket, according to a new economic impact study commissioned by the city of Pawtucket and the team.

The study was commissioned in April and conducted by the firm Brailsford & Dunlavey, which compared the impacts of developing two different downtown sites – the first, the current home of the iconic Apex building; the second, a mostly wooded parcel of land on Taft Street on the opposite side of I-95 and the Seekonk River, called the “Tidewater site.”

The study, released to Eyewitness News on Wednesday, indicates that both redevelopment plans would also include the use of a vacant parcel of land also on the riverbank that runs along Division Street.

In addition to the 9,500-seat capacity ballpark, the study says the Apex site would include a 125,000-square-foot hotel, 200 apartments, 50,000 square feet of retail space and parking. Alternatively, on the other side of the river, the Tidewater site would house the stadium, 50,000 square feet of office space, 12,000 square feet of retail space and parking.

Both proposals would also include the development of the land on Division Street, which would house 40,000 square feet of office space, 10,000 square feet of retail, space for parking and 70 condominiums.

“If this were just a ballpark…it would be one thing,” Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien said in an interview with Eyewitness News. “It’s not. It’s about a revitalization of our city.”

According to the study, the team has budgeted $76 million to construct a new ballpark. With the development of the Division Street site factored in, plans for the Apex site, excluding the cost of the park, would cost an estimated $146.7 million; the Tidewater development is estimated to cost about one third of that, $51.4 million.

The study finds development and construction on the Apex site, including the ballpark, would generate $51.5 million in economic activity and create 1,270 jobs. On the Tidewater site, consultants expect there would be $29.3 million in economic activity and 728 jobs generated by construction.

Once completed, the study found the Apex site would create 844 jobs and spur $65.3 million in economic activity. The Tidewater site would have more jobs, approximately 925, but generate less economic activity, roughly $55 million, according the findings.

Over the course of 30 years, the Apex site is projected to generate nearly $129 million in city and state tax revenue; the Tidewater site is estimated to generate $95 million.

“Clearly it points to Apex being the higher generator, rate of return if you will, for the city of Pawtucket as well as the State of Rhode Island,” Grebien said. He said the city is in discussions with the owner of the Apex property.

PawSox spokesman Bill Wanless had a similar reaction, saying the team’s owners “agree” that the Apex site is “an extremely strong opportunity for real economic development for the city of Pawtucket.”

“We also see the potential for much spillover development – as evident by the recent creation of our Prospect Development Group – and the team is excited about sharing these opportunities with our business contacts throughout New England,” Wanless continued.

Because of their close proximity, ballpark attendance at either site would be about the same, the study suggests.

In January, a study of McCoy Stadium suggested the aging ballpark needs $68 million in renovations or should otherwise be razed, making way for a new stadium, at a cost of $78 million. The figure didn’t include the additional cost of a proposed new parking garage. The study said neither option was a home run for taxpayers.

“At the end of the day, the investment needs to make sense and show economic viability,” Grebien said. “The McCoy analysis identified a number of challenges with surrounding economic development potential, which unfortunately would be the easiest way to fund any needed public investment in a facility without using existing tax dollars.”

“I still feel a great sentiment for McCoy,” Grebien continued. “It’s been here my whole life. Heck, it’s been here 75 years, and that’s why my heart is keeping it in the mix.”

Team officials and city administrators have yet to say how much money taxpayers could potentially be asked to pay for the project, but Grebien said he plans to have a proposal for the General Assembly to consider in the next week.

“There’s no financing plan, but you can be sure the PawSox would pay their fair share,” PawSox President Charles Steinberg told Eyewitness News on opening day at McCoy last month. Larry Lucchino, the team’s chairman, has suggested he’d like to have a deal in place before this year’s General Assembly session ends – just weeks from now.

A spokesperson for House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said the speaker was waiting to see what the proposal was before commenting on the possibility of public financing for the ballpark making it into the budget this year.

A spokesperson for Gov. Raimondo said she was also waiting for the proposal, but would not support a plan that left taxpayers stuck footing the bill.

The PawSox have outlined a vision for a ballpark that would be open to the public even when baseball games aren’t being played.

PawSox owners have said their plan is to stay at McCoy until their lease expires in January 2021, but the study uses 2020 as their first projected year of operation. Grebien said he would like construction to start as soon as possible, in time for the 2018 baseball season.