Is a new stadium for the Pawtucket PawSox or Rhode Island Red Sox dead?
The latest in the ongoing soap opera regarding the construction of a new park in downtown Providence has the deal finished. A complete flat line. But this is politics and this is Rhode Island politics. And as quick as you can say “Buddy Cianci’s toupee” the deal could be resuscitated.
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Ben Mondor – one of the truly great owners in baseball – held title to the Pawtucket Red Sox since 1977. Mr. Mondor died in 2010 and the Mondor family has held the franchise until it was sold this past spring to a group headed by Larry Lucchino of the parent Boston Red Sox.
The new owner’s first real public pronouncement was a desire to build a new ballpark in downtown Providence – a waterfront park with a pedestrian bridge spanning the Providence River and various accouterments to entice fans to “experience” the full baseball package. Henry et al had made a similar proposal when the Red Sox were purchased, but the political climate for public funding squashed that. John Harrington, then CEO of the Red Sox, had proposed one back in 1999.
The park would have a cost of $85,000,000 and seat 10,000 with an adjacent 750 space parking garage. The pricey stadium would be built by team owners, but would rely on state subsidies of $4,000,000 per year for 30 years to recoup costs. The plans for the stadium are also subject to change and cost cutting has been discussed as the development process continues.
The first real issue arose with the sudden death in May of James Skeffington, the new president of the ball club and a politically connected driving force behind the move and the new stadium. The second issue that caused public consternation was Curt Schilling and the demise of 38 Studios that left the taxpayers of Rhode Island on the hook for millions. A third issue is the purchase of a parcel of land (2.1 acres) from Brown University – the cost is reported in the $12,000,000 range from the city/state will provide the land for the stadium.
So is it dead?
Never say never in the politics of Providence and Rhode Island. The concept is a beautiful one and would be another significant addition to creating a “new” Providence. The comparison with Providence Place is certainly appropriate since that development became a key to revitalization.
McCoy Stadium, the current home, is in Pawtucket (gateway to Central Falls) and despite renovations remains a dated facility. Smaller retro minor league parks have been all the rage since the first one was tossed up in Buffalo almost 30 years ago.
With the seeming demise of Providence the sharks in other cities are circling the bloody fish as both Worcester and Springfield, Massachusetts have expressed interest in potentially funding a sports stadium rather than wasting the money on infrastructural, public safety or schools.
This will be an ongoing drama so stay tuned. Then again, if Providence fails they can always move to Quahog, Rhode Island.
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