The PawSox Are Trying to Extort Rhode Island

Our proposal represents a good faith effort to propose a way for the state and the city to help support the new owners in their efforts to keep the team in Rhode Island

-Jim Skeffington, PawSox President

It’s hard to take Skeffington at his word when he says something like that, simply because Skeffington is negotiating in bad faith. As WPRI’s Ted Nesi points out, the PawSox are asking Rhode Island for $120 million to build and operate their stadium; meanwhile they themselves only put up $85 million. In exchange for the land, the State money, the loss of a public park, temporary interruption of gas service for 80,000 residences, a now-empty stadium in Pawtucket, etc.; the PawSox are offering us vague promises of economic boosts and proposed tax revenues. Those promises are meaningless until real accounting is done.

Worse, this is clearly not about money. If it was, it’d be far cheaper and far more reliable to finance a refurbishing of McCoy; attendance at International League stadiumsĀ spike after a stadium is refurbished, and McCoy is a relatively old stadium as things go. Especially as the economy improves, and people in the region have more money to spend on trips to a stadium, McCoy’s numbers could come back up. Anywhere the PawSox move to in the local area (assuming they are trying to draw on the fanbase of the Boston Red Sox) is in a similar economic situation as Rhode Island. While attendance will spike with a move, it should drop off once the novelty wears away.

Since money isn’t an issue here, to me the obvious answer is that this is about egos. This is about a desire to locate a stadium in Providence, because any city worth its salt should have one; regardless of whether there’s one already just five minutes away. And knowing that taking the PawSox out of Rhode Island is distasteful to Rhode Island’s psyche, they figure they can get quite a lot out of us.

My hope is that the average Rhode Islander (and hopefully the average Rhode Island legislator) has the sense to see this for what this is. This is the rich kid threatening to take his ball and go play somewhere else unless everyone else coughs up some dough for privilege of playing with him. This is plain extortion; and the threat is clear: we will leave.

So what? The money sunk into McCoy is long spent. The $34,000 per year the PawSox pay isn’t going to make much difference to already thinly-stretched state finances. At worst, we’re left with an empty stadium which can either be torn down or new tenants can be found for it. At best, the State is paying through the nose so its citizens can go pay a bunch of already wealthy millionaires to watch baseball in a downtown location – on land we owe the Feds money for.

I shouldn’t have to say it, but this is a bad deal for Rhode Island. We shouldn’t give in and pay it.

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