To the Editor,
I am in favor of Senate Bills 990 and 989 and support Pawtucket’s responsible effort to construct a new stadium on its riverfront.
While my first introduction to professional baseball was at McCoy Stadium in 1966, with my grandfather, my professional relationship with the Pawtucket Red Sox began in 1985 with Ben Mondor and the formation of the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council.
I have spent most of my professional career working to develop the economic, social and cultural aspects of the Blackstone Valley, while working to restore a badly polluted river. The Pawtucket Red Sox have been there at every turn.
The Pawtucket Red Sox have helped bring our national pastime to international heights. McCoy Stadium was built where it is to provide entertainment and recreation to the hardworking people of Rhode Island. But, baseball has changed, and times have changed. Even I have to understand that as a historic preservationist.
Interestingly, President Roosevelt and President Truman visited McCoy to see the benefit of the stadium federal government investment constructed under The New Deal. The change in baseball, in this century, brings a new opportunity with a new, New Deal.
Today, with the private investment offered, which was not available in the Great Depression, we are able to construct a stadium that just might change the complexion of Pawtucket, the way McCoy Stadium did in the last century.
The Pawtucket Red Sox have been supporting our efforts to rebuild a post-industrial Blackstone Valley since the founding of the tourism council. Our tourism-development technique is place making. Place making facilitates creative patterns of use, paying attention to the physical, cultural and social identities that define a place and support its ongoing evolution.
With community participation, an effective place-making process capitalizes on community assets, inspiration and potential, and results in quality public spaces that contribute to health, happiness and well-being. This effort developed by Pawtucket and the Pawtucket Red Sox team will be Rhode Island’s largest place-making effort to date.
The Pawtucket Red Sox are the soul of this community. The recognition they bring to Rhode Island is equal to our state’s leading corporations.
From my perspective, I see the financial arrangements as being positive. Even if the worst-case attendance scenario presented itself, Rhode Island and Pawtucket will earn enough to cover its obligations.
If we support the city’s proposal, we just may be able to unlock the riverfront potential of upper Narragansett Bay; we just may be able to unlock the redevelopment potential of a downtown area that has seen its glory days 60 years ago and is struggling for a comeback.
We have those who speak against public funds mingled with private investments. I have considered their opinion. I have also considered what will take place without Pawtucket, and our state, being involved in this collaboration.
If the Pawtucket Red Sox find another home, in another state, Rhode Island’s revenue begins to shrink; Pawtucket’s reputation begins to shrink.
When you weigh the state and city investments against the risks involved, we have to side on following the responsible leadership position Pawtucket is presenting. The tourism council is pleased to stand shoulder to shoulder with Pawtucket.
Robert D. Billington, president
Blackstone Valley Tourism Council Inc.