The 2020 vision for Pawtucket clear … and good, for a change

Dear Editor:

We Rhode Islanders hate change. It’s a visceral thing. We want things to be the way they’ve always been, and we certainly don’t want anyone telling us that they have to change.

But if you accept the premise that some change is inevitable, then it’s up to us to change for the better.

And I, for one, believe we can.

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On April 3, the mayor of Pawtucket, Don Grebien, laid out a vision for the center of his city. He didn’t go so far as to call it a 2020 vision, but I will.

It was positive in a time when we are justifiably skeptical. Or cynical. Take your pick.

It was enthusiastic at a time when we are justifiably sluggish.

And it was clear at a time when we often think our politicians are … less than clear.

He cited public investment: a new train station will be built in the center of the city. He cited private investment: The Isle Brewery has opened up right down the street. And he cited a vision for more private investment. He has companies willing to commit, willing to invest, willing to be part of a resurgence.

These businesses count on customers; they count on a critical mass of people walking down the street, driving their cars, taking the bus, riding the trains. Businesses need people, and the trains hold promise to deliver people.

Which brings us to the Pawtucket Red Sox.

They are a private business.

They play in a public facility.

One we love, one that’s old, one that the public has maintained for 75 years.

And one that will cost $68 million to fix.

If we build a new ballpark, the owners of the PawSox will make a private investment – even though it’s a public park. They have said they would be fine with it having year-round uses – and even summertime uses when the team is away. It would be our state park, and they would share the cost.

The PawSox would not only privately subsidize a public park, they would bring half a million people or more to a downtown that needs people. And we’re talking families and young people – which downtowns need.

I know we’re all still wounded by 38 Studios. It was terrible. But honestly – we all know that fiasco has nothing whatsoever to do with a ballpark – or with the PawSox.

We have a chance to take a community that needs a boost, and help it – not with a handout, but with a solid and smart investment. It’s more than baseball, more than a stadium. It’s about bringing good people to the heart of the city so that many businesses can invest, and we can bring Pawtucket back to life.

This 2020 vision is clear … and good, for a change.

Ernie Almonte