Raimondo, Pawtucket leaders work to get ballpark plan back on track

Senate Finance chairman to unveil new legislation Tuesday; fall session possible

(Image provided by PawSox)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Gov. Gina Raimondo and Pawtucket leaders say they’re working to get the stalled Pawtucket Red Sox stadium project back on track.

In a statement Monday evening, Raimondo said she supports a revised ballpark bill that is set to be introduced on Tuesday. “The ballpark is a top priority for Pawtucket,” she said. “I think it’s a good proposal, and I urge the General Assembly to give it a full debate and vetting.”

Raimondo’s announcement came after a recent meeting she had with Pawtucket leaders about the situation that was confirmed by Dylan Zelazo, Mayor Donald Grebien’s chief of staff.

Grebien and the PawSox unveiled a proposal last month for a taxpayer-backed $83-million ballpark on the site of the Apex building. But House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said he wouldn’t take up the plan unless Raimondo endorsed it, and she cited concerns about state guarantees for Pawtucket’s share of the stadium debt in withholding her support.

Grebien has warned that the team will begin looking for a new home outside Rhode Island after July 1 if state leaders don’t show they’re acting on the stadium plan – and with the General Assembly aiming to wrap up its regular legislative session this week, any action would need to happen quickly.

“If there’s not a bill on there to say, ‘Hey, maybe we will do something in September’ – if there’s nothing there, I truly do believe that we are losing the PawSox,” Grebien told Eyewitness News earlier this month.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman William Conley, who represents Pawtucket and East Providence, confirmed he plans to introduce a reworked PawSox stadium bill on Tuesday, but emphasized it will not be considered immediately.

“The bill is being submitted to ensure that the proposed terms become part of the public record for all to see and scrutinize accordingly in the weeks and months ahead,” Conley said in a statement.

“The Senate is strongly committed to maintaining an open, transparent, and deliberative process in its vetting of all matters concerning the residents and taxpayers of Rhode Island,” he said. “The Senate Committee on Finance stands ready to conduct intensive public hearings and receive testimony this fall from anyone wishing to register a position or provide input.”

Mattiello and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio have both said they would consider bringing lawmakers back for a special session this fall to take up the ballpark plan, but the speaker has insisted he won’t allow it unless Raimondo throws her weight behind the proposal.

PawSox leaders have not commented publicly on the stadium situation since Ruggerio short-circuited the debate May 23 by announcing his chamber would not take up the proposal during the current legislative session. But the team’s Twitter account did send this message on June 3:

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

Tim White contributed to this report.