PawSox Report Progress Toward Possible Stadium Agreement In Rhode Island

May 3, 2018

Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien attempting to rally legislative support for a PawSox stadium plan in 2017.
Credit Ian Donnis/File Photo / RIPR

The Pawtucket Red Sox are getting closer to an agreement on language for a revised Pawtucket stadium proposal that could be heard by a Rhode Island General Assembly committee later this month, a team consultant said Thursday.

PawSox consultant Guy Dufault said the progress follows ongoing talks between the team, the city of Pawtucket, and staffers in the Rhode Island House of Representatives.

"[Pawtucket] Mayor [Don] Grebien has said to me he felt they were making substantial progress," Dufault said.

Speaking separately, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said the House is pursuing an agreement with the PawSox.

"We're working currently with the PawSox and if we can negotiate a proposal where the risk is transferred away from the Rhode Island taxpayer, we will do something," Mattiello said during a taping Thursday of Rhode Island Public Radio's Political Roundtable. "And if the PawSox want to stay in Rhode Island, we'll work on making that happen and we'll make a deal that is favorable to the taxpayer where a lot of the risk is shifted."

Mattiello said he didn't know if the threat of the team leaving for Worcester is real.

But, he said, "I believe that it's probably appropriate to try to get it [a deal] done before the end of this session. If we don't for some reason, and I'm not making that prediction, but if we don't for some reason, I would keep talking. That would be up to the PawSox at that point."

The General Assembly is expected to end its session in mid-June.

The Rhode Island Senate passed a revised PawSox stadium plan in January. Mattiello put the brakes on considering the $83 million proposal, saying it needed more public support. The speaker has rejected views that his stance is influenced by his narrow 85-vote victory over Republican state rep challenger Steven Frias in 2016.

Supporters say keeping the PawSox in Pawtucket would help revitalize part of the city near downtown and maintain a Rhode Island institution. Opponents of the deal object to the use of millions of dollars in public financing to help a wealthy ownership group.

Dufault downplayed a Worcester Business Journal report that had an anonymous businessman predicting the PawSox are likely to move to Worcester, with an announcement possibly in June. He said Worcester proponents lack control of the site for an envisioned stadium, although he also said Rhode Island remains "in a race against time with Worcester."

Dufault said the talks are "getting very close" to producing language for a revised legislative proposal in Rhode Island Asked if Worcester has made a proposal to the team, Dufault said, "not to my knowledge."