Stadium Hearings Scheduled — Bat Signal Goes Up

They’re baaaack. The PawSox ownership team still thinks we should pay for their new stadium and they have arranged with the Senate Finance Committee to hold six public hearings around the state. (The hearings have a website.) This plan may sound like a good-faith effort to get out and “speak to the people.” On the other hand, it may be a divide-and-conquer strategy designed to make sure that there isn’t one big, noisy, overflow crowd at the state house hearing, but rather six smaller groups where the optics will be more to the team owners liking. And stadium opponents may be less willing to get noisy and angry and express themselves in smaller groups. So we need to show up — to all the meetings if possible — but definitely to this first one.

First Senate Hearing, Thursday, September 14, 6pm, room 313, State House

The Projections: This will hardly be the last piece we write on this topic — there are many reasons why this is a bad idea — but today let’s talk about “projections” and why they should be dismissed out of hand. According to the ProJo,

Senate spokesman Greg Pare released team projections earlier this year showing that the city and state would generate considerably more in taxes over the 30-year life of the deal than they’d need to make the bond payments.

Bond payments would be $900,000 a year for the city and $1.4 million for the state. Yet the projected annual revenues are $1.7 million for the city and $4.7 million for the state, according to data released when Conley announced he’d hold Finance Committee hearings this fall.

I say these numbers are pulled out of thin air, or some darker place, but let’s hear from an expert about where these projections come from, the state’s expert . . . the one whose opinion the taxpayers have already paid for.

Sports economist Andrew Zimbalist was hired as a consultant and adviser by Speaker Mattiello back in 2015 during “Stadium I: The Awakening.” While clearly lobbying for the PawSox Zimbalist somehow ended up getting paid $225/hour at taxpayer expense. (RI Future 5.19.15) Evidence of his advocacy could be found in the fact that he was now contradicting his own previously published positions on the value of taxpayer-supported stadiums. In 2004 Zimbalist told Jim Lehrer on NewsHour,

“Practically every stadium that’s come on stream in the last 20 years in the U.S. has been accompanied by a consulting report…These are hired out consulting companies that are working for the promoters of the stadium. They engage in very, very dubious methodology. They make unrealistic assumptions and they can produce whatever they want to produce.”

Projections are meaningless window dressing and should be ignored.

The Deal: How much do you really understand how this proposal would work? It may not be as complicated as they make it out to be. It’s just bad and they don’t want you to understand it.

Last May the PawSox owners ran some egregiously sentimental television spots — Our heart has always been in Pawtucket (cue the violins) — in an attempt to make us forget that they are a cadre of out-of-state billionaires who could easily build their own stadium thank you. This media blitz prompted a response from former republican state attorney general, radio talk show host, and hero of “Crimetown,” Arlene Violet, in the Valley Breeze in which she clearly lays out in the simplest terms what they are trying to pull off here. If you are confused about the deal on the table please read her piece — “Ads don’t change fiscal realty of new stadium.”  Hell, print it out and bring it to the hearings.

Former Sister of Mercy, Arlene Violet, elected as Attorney General in 1984, enjoyed the ‘Attila the Nun’ moniker, but perhaps Cassandra would have been more appropriate. Violet pushed for legislation that may well have averted the 1991 banking crisis, but it did not pass in the sink of corruption and machine politics known as the Rhode Island General Assembly. They helped her lose her bid for reelection in 1986.

So Arlene has credibility for miles in this arena, she knows the numbers, and a lot of these guys are still terrified of the nuns. I sure would love to see Arlene Violet walking into that hearing.

6pm, Thursday, September 14, RI State House, room 313, 82 Smith Street, (directions)

Stay tuned next week when we discuss “Why we aren’t Durham.”

2 thoughts on “Stadium Hearings Scheduled — Bat Signal Goes Up”

  1. I keep hearing opposition to the PawSox Stadium project from people like Arlene Violet who doesn’t have a forum (like Facebook) to be challenged, and hides behind the weak protectionist commenting policy of the Valley Breeze. I also redundantly hear people griping PawSox ownership should put up all the funds for the stadium or all private investors. That just doesn’t happen for public use projects and never has. I want to point out, most substantial projects that support commerce are publicly funded or partially publicly funded. The Convention Center and Providence Place Mall are two examples, and RIPTA’s recently reinstituted free pass to elderly and disabled is another. None of these projects or programs are deemed “cash cows” however, they are better to have than not; would you agree? The proposal by Pawsox ownership has the team paying $45 million, or 54 percent, of the cost for land and development. In addition, the team will pay for 62 percent of ballpark construction as well as all construction overruns. And lastly, the stadium and team will produce revenue. A projected $130 million in fiscal benefits over 30 years. The $45 million from the PawSox ownership group would represent the largest private investment in Pawtucket’s history. It’s also the largest private investment in the history of publicly owned Triple-A ballparks.

    Charlotte Knights’ BB&T BallPark brings fans, investors to uptown Charlotte:

  2. The PawSox belong at McCoy.

    But, if the new owners want to move, let them move. I’m sure Pawtucket will have no problem luring another AAA team to McCoy. Who wouldn’t want the chance to play baseball at the historic site of the Longest Game in Professional Baseball History? Thousands of devoted fans?

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