Costs, timeline for Pawtucket soccer stadium project still uncertain

AN UPDATED COST AND TIMELINE for the Pawtucket soccer stadium project known as Tidewater Landing won't be made clear for nine months, the developer said on Tuesday. /COURTESY FORTUITOUS PARTNERS

PAWTUCKET – Key questions around the timing and total cost of the Pawtucket soccer stadium project remain unanswered.

And those answers won’t be coming for at least another nine months – well after the United Soccer League Championship team was supposed to play its first season, according to the  original proposal by developer Fortuitous Partners.

However, proponents aren’t worried. In a virtual briefing with reporters on Tuesday, city and state leaders and members of the development team championed the project as an economic catalyst for the city and the state, insisting that the multitude of delays and cost hikes have not dampened their confidence nor commitment to seeing it through.

“This project is not going to slip through our hands,” said Gov. Daniel J. McKee. 

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McKee made sure of that by casting the tiebreaking vote in an R.I. Commerce Corp. meeting Monday which reworked the public financing plan for the mixed-use riverfront development.

The approved changes shift a majority of the $45 million in net public financing – including city and state bonds and money from city property tax revenue – to the 10,000-seat USL soccer stadium, leaving only $1.5 million of the tax-increment financing for the later portions of public infrastructure and amenities. Some Commerce board members questioned this approach, warning that the state could be left with an empty stadium and millions of taxpayer dollars it can’t repay if projected revenue doesn’t meet expectations. 

Costs for the project keep rising. Originally pegged at $284 million, the latest estimates put the price tag at $344 million, including a nearly 50% hike in the stadium. And the timeline keeps getting longer and longer, first delayed by negotiations over the public funding package, then land acquisition, and now, inflation and supply chain strangleholds.

Dan Kroeber, Fortuitous’ director of development, said Tuesday it will take another nine months for the developer to refine its cost estimates and timeline for the evolving project, which now includes swapping out office space for more housing.

Despite ongoing delays in the project first awarded through a competitive bid process in 2019, McKee insisted the momentum had not slowed, pointing to the upcoming groundbreaking on Aug. 12 that was also announced on Tuesday.

The Aug. 12 event  comes after months of environmental remediation on the riverfront property, part of which once housed operations for The Pawtucket Gas Co.

Also on the horizon, a name for the team, which Brett Johnson, founder of Fortuitous, expected to be announced in September. 

Johnson stressed the company’s commitment to seeing the entire project – not just the stadium but accompanying housing, infrastructure and commercial space – through. The company has upped its contribution to the soccer stadium to $78.5 million – the highest amount in a USL Championship stadium nationwide, according to a report by CSL Consulting shared at the Commerce meeting on Monday. Johnson did not say how much of the private investment he has secured toward that cost, but said he expected to “close out the balance shortly.”

Private investment for the later parts of the project can’t be secured until the company has a better idea of the scope – and cost – of those components, Johnson said. 

The project is expected to create 474 direct construction jobs and 162 permanent ones, and generate $37 million in state tax revenue over the next 30 years, according to a CSL analysis shared Monday.

In addition to the already approved $36.2 million city and state financing, R.I. Commerce has authorized $10 million in net state tax credits for the project.

Nancy Lavin is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Lavin@PBN.com.

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