NO! To Riverfront Stadium Site

This should be an absolute deal breaker. Opposition to the stadium scheme has been largely focused on the taxpayer money grab — and rightly so — but the owners’ choice of the riverfront location has been hugely problematic as well. Now comes Kate Bramson’s piece in the Sunday ProJo — “Proposed PawSox stadium in Providence threatens master plan for stormwater mitigation” — which illuminates how two years of work by multiple state agencies will have to be thrown out the window for a handful of seasonal, minimum wage jobs.

We are being asked to abandon not only this huge investment in time and resources but the original vision of a biotech Knowledge District because these self-promoting boosters have rushed in with a shiny bauble.

The I-195 Redevelopment District Commission owns 26 acres of former highway land and is charged with redeveloping the land in a way that stimulates the state’s ailing economy and also creates 7 acres of public parkland. The Pawtucket Red Sox owners want 4.8 acres now set aside to become a public park.

In 2012 and 2013, the 195 commission worked with the DEM, the Coastal Resources Management Council and the Narragansett Bay Commission to develop the master environmental permit. Those agencies approved the 195 commission’s request to treat the former highway land comprehensively and granted final approval for the master permit in November 2013.

And now we need to spend $300,000 to study the issue? Good news — the studies have already been done! The verdict is in. Taxpayer-funded sports stadiums are losers!

All the information needed has been made available to all courtesy of the Providence Journal. Kate Bramson and Paul Grimaldi have been on top of this project every step of the way. Meanwhile business writer John Kostrzewa sought the opinion of Victor Matheson, an economics professor at the College of the Holy Cross and co-author of “Financing Professional Sports Facilities.”

“It’s an absolutely silly economic idea,” Matheson said. “It makes no sense from the state’s standpoint to move the team five miles from Pawtucket to Providence.”

Reports in The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, and Forbes have all come to the same conclusion. (Happily, a more suitable location has turned up — assuming the owners can go forward without taxpayer support of course.)

The first public meeting on the stadium issue was held last month (ProJo 4.28.15) during which I-195 Redevelopment District Commission member Dr. Barrett Bready told the owners “the commission’s goal is broader than merely finding uses for the 26 acres of former highway land now available after the state’s realignment of Route 195. The state has long said the land is one of the best places to create jobs in the medical and education sectors that will draw upon the nearby hospitals and universities.”

“If the state is willing to spend $4 million to $5 million a year, there are more direct ways of attracting life-sciences companies” than building a ballpark, said Bready.

Bready knows what he’s talking about; he is the founder of Nabsys, a biotech firm (semiconductor tools for DNA analysis) in the Jewelry District funded with the help of (then citizen) Gina Raimondo of Point Judith Capital. Raimondo sure seemed to know what she was doing when she was handling private equity, and I’ll bet she didn’t spend $300,000 of the firm’s money looking into the matter.

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