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PawSox Rule Out I-195 Land For Stadium; Team to Scout Other Sites In RI & Possibly Elsewhere

Skeffington presenting the PawSox' ill-fated Providence stadium plan in April.
Skeffington presenting the PawSox' ill-fated Providence stadium plan in April.
Skeffington presenting the PawSox' ill-fated Providence stadium plan in April.
Credit Ian Donnis/File Photo / RIPR
Skeffington presenting the PawSox' ill-fated Providence stadium plan in April.

The Pawtucket Red Sox officially pronounced dead Saturday night their quest to build a ballpark on part of the former I-195 land in Providence, an effort that went onto life support in recent weeks due a variety of hurdles.

In a statement, PawSox Chairman Larry Lucchino said the team was suspending its pursuit of the I-195 parcels and "will cease its public campaign for the I-195 riverfront site."

While expressing regret about moving past a location he believes would have been "a win-win-win for the state, the city, and the PawSox," Lucchino added, "We will now begin to consider all other options and proposals we receive, including city officials' suggestion of potential other sites in Providence."

In an interview, PawSox spokeswoman Patti Doyle declined to identify any specific locations that may be considered by the team. In an indication that the Triple A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox may look beyond Rhode Island, Doyle said, "I don't think the team is setting any geographic boundaries at this point."

Doyle added that PawSox ownership has not changed its stance that keeping the team at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket is not an option.

Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien and a number of PawSox fans have made clear they want the team to stay in Pawtucket. Governor Gina Raimondo has supported the idea of the team taking a fresh look at remaining at McCoy, while warning the state is unlikely to provide a large subsidy, regardless of the team's plans.

The PawSox' ill-fated quest to build a new stadium on choice parcels of the former I-195 land began after the team was acquired by a new ownership group in February. That followed the death of beloved team owner Ben Mondor in 2010.

Providence lawyer and longtime deal-maker Jim Skeffington, a leader in the new PawSox ownership, could see his desired ballpark location from his downtown office, and he thought he could convince powerful politicians and everyday Rhode Islanders alike to rally behind the concept.

Yet the team's initial request for $120 million in taxpayer subsidies over 30 years, and an exemption from Providence property taxes, triggered a backlash fueled by the 2012 bankruptcy of 38 Studios, the video game company owned by former Red Sox star Curt Schilling that had been lured to Rhode Island with a $75 million loan backed by taxpayers.

The PawSox faced a number of other setbacks, including the unexpected death of Skeffington, the main booster for the new ballpark, who died after jogging in May.

The PawSox' statement ruling out the I-195 site said Raimondo "has determined that the I-195 site on the Providence River is not suitable for construction of a new ballpark."

Yet as Raimondo's administration indicated in recent months, a number of hurdles had to be cleared for the team's preferred site to move forward. Those hurdles wound up including the $15 million cost of buying Brown University-owned land as part of the project; the City of Providence's insistence that it receive revenue as park of a new stadium; and concerns raised by the Federal Highway Administration.

These additional hurdles increased the initial $75 million cost of the PawSox' proposed stadium, to about $100 million,

Speaking Thursday on RI Public Radio's Political Roundtable, Raimondo said she believed the I-195 site to be dead as a ballpark possibility.

House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello exhibited the most enthusiasm among public officials for creating a stadium on the I-195 land.

"It is disappointing that negotiations have ended at the I-195 property," Mattiello said in a statement. "I thought that would have been a very successful location. A stadium there would have brought the community together and would have acted as a catalyst for further economic development in Providence."

In an apparent reference to Brown, Mattiello added, "Unfortunately, different entities put artificially high costs on a deal, which proved to be insurmountable."

Attendance has declined for years at McCoy, and the PawSox have argued they need a more densely populated area to increase their revenue.

Victory Place, one alternative site in Providence, was recently acquired by Lifespan, although the company said it doesn't have immediate plans for the location.

Lucchino closed his statement by saying, "The club will now devote its energy to preparing for the 2016 season in Pawtucket at McCoy Stadium, but will continue to listen to ideas and plans regarding the long-term future of the franchise."

Copyright 2015 The Public's Radio

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