(9.26) [Additional Note: Today’s ProJo reports that the sign-up sheet at the first hearing was conducted in bad faith. No reason to believe tonight’s will be any different . . . these hearings are theater. An alternate event has been planned by opponents. The term of Committee Chair Senator William Conley ends in 2018. He can be reached at his state house office or call him at his law office, 401-415-9835.]
The second hearing concerning the PawSox Stadium proposal will be held tonight at Tolman High in Pawtucket. The Senate Finance Committee (phone 276.5584) will hear testimony from City of Pawtucket officials who will “examine Impact and Risks.” This is the ancillary development portion of the program.
According to the Notice of Meeting, the presentation by City of Pawtucket officials (so . . . no PawSox reps?) starts at 6pm, with public comment starting at 7pm. In a phone call yesterday, Senate Director of Communications, Greg Pare, confirmed this schedule stating that the initial presentation should run no more than 45 minutes and that testimony may be better managed this time around. The hearing ends at 10pm.
[Additional note: Sam Bell, chairman of ‘Stop the Stadium Deal,’ has informed me that the 45 minute presentation by the Pawtucket officials will essentially be McCoy opponents speaking without time limits. Meanwhile, everyone else will be strictly limited, “so that there really won’t be time to make a serious presentation.”]
The Notice advises: “Please use the auditorium entrance located closest to Exchange Street. Additional Public Parking available at Pawtucket City Hall, 137 Roosevelt Ave.”
Signing up to testify? The Notice states, “Sign-in for the public comment portion of the hearing will begin at 5:00 PM in the auditorium.”
Pare confirmed that testimony will be taken in order of the names on the sign-up sheet. There will only be one sheet for both the pro and opposition witnesses.
We have no idea if PawSox ownership will be organizing with the labor unions to form the intimidating welcoming committee that greeted opponents at the state house last time around.
The Progressive Democrats for America have taken a stand against the stadium (go here for statement). I asked Sam Bell — former coordinator of the Rhode Island PDA chapter and current chairman of ‘Stop the Stadium Deal’ — for clarification on the PawSox plans for ancillary development.
As I understand it, the plan is to basically give the ownership group the prime land for free for them to develop. This is part of where they plan to cash in, since prime waterfront land is valuable, even if the best pieces are occupied by a stadium and a massive waterfront parking lot. That’s why you see so much interest in joining the investment group.
Let’s go to Andrew Zimbalist, the sports economists hired as a consultant by House Speaker Mattiello during the last stadium go-around in 2015. This article — “Sports, Jobs, and Taxes: Are New Stadiums Worth the Cost?” — ran back in 1997, but the evidence supporting his thesis that stadiums are a bad deal for taxpayers has only mounted in the intervening years. I include this analysis of the Baltimore park because this was another Lucchino project and is constantly humped as his big success story. But is it?
Sports facilities attract neither tourists nor new industry. Probably the most successful export facility is Oriole Park, where about a third of the crowd at every game comes from outside the Baltimore area. (Baltimore’s baseball exports are enhanced because it is 40 miles from the nation’s capital, which has no major league baseball team.) Even so, the net gain to Baltimore’s economy in terms of new jobs and incremental tax revenues is only about $3 million a year—not much of a return on a $200 million investment.
Of course Washington D.C. does have its own team now; the Nationals have played there since 2005. So how are things at Camden Yards? Concern was a big topic last year in The Baltimore Sun, “Declining crowds at Camden Yards concern Orioles, fans and businesses.” The Washington Post noted that attendance was down even during a pennant race.
Yes, the reasons for declining attendance are many, and Rhode Island is immune to none of them.
Stadium hearing, sign-up 5pm, hearing starts 6pm to 10pm, Tuesday, September 26, Tolman High, 150 Exchange Street, Pawtucket, (directions)