RI, Pawtucket Officials Pledge New Beginning After PawSox

Aug 22, 2018

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo said Wednesday that Rhode Island will "double down" on Pawtucket and the Blackstone Valley, despite last week's announcement that the PawSox minor league team is planning to leave the city.

"Friday was a sad day," Raimondo said. "Today we begin again."

State officials announced plans to spend $300,000 on roads and signs around a planned train station in downtown Pawtucket. Raimondo also touted plans by Pawtucket-based travel company, Colette, to create nearly 100 new jobs in the city.

The company will receive roughly $1 million in job creation tax incentives from the state.

Addressing questions about the breakdown of Rhode Island's deal with the PawSox, Raimondo maintained that she had done everything she could to keep the team.

"I personally spent hundreds of hours on this," she said.

But ultimately Rhode Island could not match the offer from Worcester.

"From the beginning, the mayor and I, and all of us, have said that the PawSox belong in Pawtucket, but we have to protect the taxpayers," Raimondo said. "And the deal that Worcester has in front of them, over $100 million dollars, would not have been responsible for us to try to compete with."

In announcing the decision, team officials said legislative foot-dragging in Rhode Island provided Worcester with an opportunity to strike a deal. Team officials were eventually convinced, they said, by a coordinated campaign by state and city leaders.

The deal, which still requires approval from the Worcester City Council, includes $100.8 million in city borrowing, and more than $30 million in state spending on infrastructure improvements around the new stadium site. The PawSox plan to move to Worcester after the 2020 season.

"Worcester took a tremendous risk that was far beyond the appetite of Pawtucket and the Rhode Island taxpayers," said Pawtucket's mayor, Don Grebien, who said he is still shocked and disappointed. 

Now that team has made it's decision, Grebien said he would not back away from plans to revitalize the city's downtown. He said he is still working to acquire the Apex Department Store property, which would have been the site of the new stadium. Grebien said state officials have promised to expedite their review of proposals for the future of McCoy Stadium.

Asked whether soccer team the New England Revolution might be candidate for McCoy, Gov. Raimondo indicated that she has called team owner, Jonathan Kraft.

"I think they're pretty committed to Boston, so it would be a longshot. But we'll try it," she said.

Speaking to a roomful of reporters and state and city leaders at Slater Mill, once the epicenter of Pawtucket's industrial economy, Grebien said the city has been a crucial ingredient in the PawSox success over decades.

"Our Pawtucket family made them great for 45 years," Grebien said. "I’m not sure how the 'Woo' will do up north, but we know how the 'Paw' did for 45 years."