PROVIDENCE – House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello, speaking before an audience of state business and labor leaders, said Wednesday the Pawtucket Red Sox need to reach out to all communities and listen to Rhode Islanders before revising a proposal for a new ballpark.
Speaking as part of a panel at the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, and later to reporters, Mattiello, D-Cranston, said the team isn’t putting enough money into the current deal, and he reiterated his belief that two-thirds of state residents oppose it.
In citing the public sentiment, he cited a poll commissioned by the media site GoLocal Providence, conducted in October 2017, recent canvassing in another district by a House colleague, as well as feedback from “a majority” of his fellow representatives.
The public conversation that still needs to happen on the Pawtucket ballpark is different than the series of public Senate hearings that were conducted over several weeks last fall, he told reporters after the luncheon.
“Committee hearings are different than what I’m suggesting,” he said. “The average citizen does not go out to committee hearings. You don’t get a real flavor for what the public is thinking. You end up with a lot of interested parties on both sides of the equation.”
In addition to a lack of public support for the current deal, he said, the finances don’t hold up. He told reporters no solid financial analysis supports the $83 million project.
“It’s thinly capitalized. You need new revenue sources to support the deal into the future for the next 30 years. You need 2,500 more people going to each game for the next 30 years to support the deal. That is not the analysis that any bank underwriter would follow.”
What would it take to gain Mattiello’s support for the stadium construction was the first question posed in the chamber’s forum, by Laurie White, the organization’s president.
Mattiello told White the House is reflective of the views of the general public. But the public doesn’t want to be a part of the ballpark deal. “The public doesn’t like the deal.”
Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, D-North Providence, noted that 30 hours of public hearings were held as part of the Senate review of the proposal, which initially was negotiated by the R.I. Commerce Corp.
As for feedback, he said his experience in hearing from constituents was different than Mattiello’s.
“I don’t know if they’re pandering to me, but I’ve heard only positive comments,” Ruggerio said.
If the PawSox owners are asked to pick up all of the costs of the stadium construction, he said, “I think they’re gone.”
The team has had discussions with city leaders in Worcester, Mass., which started after the General Assembly did not act on the bill financing the stadium construction last year.
White told the audience of 675 business representatives that she had started her morning on the phone with Timothy P. Murray, president of the Worcester chamber.
The reception in that city among the general population is more positive regarding the PawSox, she was told, because Worcester has had experience in seeing how tax increment financing districts work.
“And that the degree of skepticism isn’t perhaps as rampant as it is here,” White said.
Mary MacDonald is a staff writer for the PBN. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.