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PawSox Edge Closer to Worcester, What Will Be the Fallout in RI

Monday, August 06, 2018

 

PawSox are 11th out of 14 teams in attendance

Over the past six weeks, there have been a number of developments impacting the Pawtucket Red Sox franchise and the team's future in Rhode Island.

They range from legislation creating a funding structure for a new stadium to minor league baseball officials securing trademarks for the "WooSox" -- the potential team nickname in Worcester, MA. GoLocal recaps the recent developments. 

Legislation Never Publicly Supported by PawSox, Dramatically Increased Cost of Borrowing

The General Assembly passed a bill that had no public support from the Pawtucket Red Sox ownership group. 

The legislation authored by Speaker of the House is estimated drive the cost of the borrowing to more than $200 million. According to the State Senate’s fiscal analysis, the legislation increases the cost of the financing by $83 million over the Senate version.

Despite Mattiello’s claims that the funding structure would take RI taxpayers off the hook in the case of a failure, everyone from Governor Gina Raimondo to the Hassenfeld Institute’s Gary Sasse has disputed that claim. Raimondo signed the PawSox legislation and her official statement said, "As I've said all along, the PawSox belong in Pawtucket. No one wants to see them end up in Worcester. This legislation gives Mayor Grebien an opportunity to work with the team over the coming months to keep them here, and it gives Pawtucket a shot at meaningful economic revitalization."

Little public comment from Lucchino in weeks

Dwindling Public Support

Public support for the PawSox continues to decline. Through 53 home games, the PawSox home attendance is just 5,587 per game, through Friday August 3. The PawSox rank 11th in attendance in the 14 team league. In 2005, the PawSox averaged over 9,500 per game, which was good then for first in the league.

The team has previously said the decreasing attendance is tied to the condition of the existing McCoy Stadium ballpark.

A poll conducted in early June by John Della Volpe of Harvard on behalf of GoLocalProv found that there was little support for public financing of the stadium proposed for the former Apex department store location in Pawtucket.

Just 13 percent of Rhode Islanders ‘strongly support’ public financing and on 33 percent overall support state funding.

The poll question asked, “The Rhode Island General Assembly is in the process of negotiating a $40 million public financing deal with the Pawtucket Red Sox for a new stadium, hoping to bring a vote before the House and Senate this summer.  

In general, do you favor or oppose the use of public funds to help finance a new stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox?”

Net: Favor                    33%

Strongly favor              13%

Somewhat favor          21%

Net: Oppose                59%

Somewhat oppose      21%

Strongly oppose         38%

Don't know                   8%

No Proposal from Pawtucket Yet

After the passage of the legislation, the City of Pawtucket has yet to put a proposal before the PawSox ownership. Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien told GoLocal on July 19, “We are still at a preliminary stage. The city continues to meet with the PawSox organization to draft the terms and understanding as written in the enabling legislation passed by the GA and signed by the Gov. There is no definitive schedule.”

Grebien added, “We recognize the legislation has changed dramatically and is not the traditional finance model AAA baseball is used to. The City of Pawtucket and the State of RI have so much more to offer than Worcester, MA. We are aggressively working to put a proposal in front of the PawSox.”

One of three Woosox trademarks

WooSox Trademark and Visits

Most recently, Minor League Baseball has applied for and been granted three trademarks covering the name “WooSox.”

According to the U.S. government's trademark database, the three trademarks were granted on July 26. MassLive reports that, “In an email, [Robert] Fountain cautioned against reading too much into the filing. ‘Minor League Baseball filed this trademark application because other cities are under consideration,’ he wrote. ‘This filing is a legal safety measure and should not be construed as suggesting that any decision has been made.’” Fountain is an attorney representing Minor League Baseball.

Fitton Field

Rumors Swirl

With each week that passes, more rumors swirl about the future of the team and efforts in Rhode Island to retain the PawSox. There have been not publicly confirmed discussions between the Pawtucket Red Sox ownership group and Raimondo or economic development officials at RI Commerce in months.

Worcester officials are similarly refusing public comment on the future of the team. Many are predicting the PawSox officials will not announce their intentions until early September after the end of the PawSox' season.

And, while the team's lease continues until 2020, team officials have been reportedly evaluated Fitton Field at Holy Cross in Worcester as a potential interim location for the team until a new stadium in Worcester can be completed. As presently constructed, Fitton Field has a capacity of 3,000 and is home to a college league team -- the Worcester Bravehearts.

 

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