Grebien: With bill tabled, RI in danger of PawSox leaving

(Image provided by PawSox)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien held a State House conference on Wednesday to urge state leaders to take up a proposal for a new Pawtucket Red Sox stadium or else risk losing the team to another place.

Grebien was joined by labor leaders and other elected officials. They made their plea a day after State House leaders signaled the hot-button stadium deal is dead for this legislative session, which is supposed to end next month.

The team and Grebien are asking the state to invest $23 million in the $83-million project, with the city investing another $15 million. The team would cover the remaining $45 million. Grebien says taxes generated by the new ballpark will more than pay off the public subsidy, and warns the state will lose revenue if the team leaves.

Rhode Island Senate President Dominick Ruggerio said Tuesday his chamber wouldn’t take up the plan to build a new ballpark near Slater Mill to replace aging McCoy Stadium during this session, which wraps up in June. But he hasn’t ruled out looking at a bill in the fall.

“It is too late in the session for a thorough, public review of a proposal of this magnitude,” he said.

House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, however, has said he will not allow his chamber to review the legislation unless Gov. Gina Raimondo formally endorses it. So far she has refused to do so, though her commerce secretary, Stefan Pryor, has been closely involved in putting the deal together.

David Ortiz, a spokesperson for the Raimondo administration, released a statement Wednesday afternoon saying the governor agreed with Ruggerio’s decision.

“The administration understands Mayor Grebien’s frustration and gives him credit for working hard to keep the PawSox in Pawtucket – an outcome the Governor still hopes can ultimately be achieved. However, over the weekend and up until the time the Senate President said time had run out, the City expressed concern about its ability to make such a large financial commitment. Governor Raimondo respects the Senate President’s decision and agrees that this is too important to rush.”

It’s the second time in two years a ballpark makeover has been sent packing by taxpayers. The previous plan would have built a new ballpark in Providence — subsidized by taxpayers — but that got tremendous backlash from a state still gnashing its teeth over assuming the $75 million debt from the 2012 folding of Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios video game company.