Grebien: PawSox could leave RI if ballpark bill fails this fall

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island lawmakers later this year are expected to take up a revamped proposal to build a new stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox, and some supporters say it could be the last hope for keeping the team in the state.

Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien said he believes the PawSox will head for greener pastures if a deal can’t be reached.

“We have not had those discussions yet,” Grebien said. “But instinctively, based on everything they are saying, there would be no reason to stay if we don’t have something on the table.”

The bill introduced last week would green-light the construction of an $83-million ballpark in downtown Pawtucket. The team would pay $45 million, with $33 million being paid through a 30-year lease agreement, while taxpayers would contribute the remaining $38 million: $23 million from the state and $15 million from the city, which would be paid back with tax revenue from the park and a surcharge on ticket sales.

Additionally, the revised bill spells out that Pawtucket would backstop its own bonds by pledging its non-education state aid, which is something that Gov. Gina Raimondo said gave her confidence to support the measure.

The team also said it’s committed to covering any cost overruns.

For many, giving public money to a baseball stadium is simply a nonstarter. But the bill’s sponsor, Senate Finance Chairman William Conley, said those opponents will be given a chance to make their voices heard.

Conley, who also represents Pawtucket, announced plans on Friday to vet the bill in early fall through a series of Senate Finance hearings not at the State House, but in communities around Rhode Island.

“We are committed to making this the most open, transparent and comprehensive review of a public finance program in the history of the state of Rhode Island,” Conley said during Friday’s taping of WPRI 12’s Newsmakers.

The team issued a statement last week thanking the governor and her team for supporting the proposal and referencing a “final resolution” in the fall.