Senate to hold 6 hearings on PawSox stadium plan starting Sept. 14

(Image provided by PawSox)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A top Rhode Island Senate committee has set a series of hearings starting in mid-September to review the proposal for a new Pawtucket Red Sox baseball stadium, as well as a new website about the effort.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman William Conley, D-East Providence, said his panel would hold hearings on the stadium proposal in six communities around Rhode Island. Information about the hearings will be posted at a new website, PawSoxHearings.com, where residents can also provide feedback.

“We want to ensure that the voice of the people is heard,” Conley said in a statement.

All the hearings will take place at 6 p.m. The schedule and topics are:

• Sept. 14: Room 313, State House. “The committee will outline the hearing process, receive an overview of the proposal, and take public testimony.”

• Sept. 26: Tolman High School, Pawtucket. “The committee will review potential ancillary development and Pawtucket’s risk, and take public testimony.”

• Oct. 3: Swan Hall Auditorium, URI, Kingston. “The committee will examine the economic model and review state level risk analysis, and take public testimony.”

• Oct. 11: Media Presentation Theatre, NEIT, East Greenwich. “The committee will conduct general inquiry into previous testimony and presentations, and take public testimony.”

• Oct. 12: Room 283, Roger Williams University School of Law, Bristol. “The committee will continue its inquiry and take public testimony.”

• Oct. 19: Bello Center Grand Hall, Bryant University, Smithfield. “The committee will continue its inquiry and take public testimony.”

In May, the PawSox ownership group unveiled a plan to build a new, $83-million stadium on the site of the Apex building in Pawtucket, with $45 million funded by the team, $23 million covered by the state and $15 million covered by the city of Pawtucket.

While Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien has been pushing hard for the stadium, Gov. Gina Raimondo and House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello have appeared lukewarm toward it, and critics have questioned whether public money should be used for a ballpark. Meanwhile, officials in Worcester have begun an effort to lure the team there.

But in a sign the stadium plan may be gaining some momentum, Mattiello said Monday his chamber plans to take up the issue soon, too.

“The House Finance Committee will hold a hearing on the PawSox’ legislation in the near future,” Mattiello said in a statement. “I will collaborate with Chairman [Marvin] Abney to determine the proper approach to this issue.”

During a June 30 appearance on WPRI 12’s Newsmakers, Conley said the purpose of the PawSox hearings “road show” would be “to make sure that everybody in the public who wants to be heard will have a full and fair opportunity to be heard.” He said lawmakers have learned lessons from the 38 Studios debacle, and recognizes the need to build public trust.

“I am approaching the upcoming hearings not as a cheerleader for the proposal but as a steward of the taxpayers’ dollars,” Conley, who represents Pawtucket, said in a commentary distributed by his office. “We are working to determine whether this is a wise investment for the state.”

“At the conclusion of the hearing process, the Senate Finance Committee will issue a final report containing findings based on all the testimony and written comments, and make any amendments to the legislation that the committee determines are warranted,” he said.

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

An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect location for the Oct. 11 hearing.