PROVIDENCE, R.I. — More than a week after House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello released a new minor-league ballpark financing plan, the Pawtucket Red Sox remained mum about it Friday, saying they are awaiting changes from lawmakers early next week before commenting.
“We anticipate there will be amendments early next week, which we will review upon receipt,” Guy Dufault, working as a consultant for the ballclub, wrote in an email Friday.
But while Mattiello’s office acknowledged that it has received proposed amendments to its plan from Pawtucket city officials, who are working with the team to push a stadium deal across home plate, spokesman Larry Berman said no decision has been made on whether to make changes to the bill.
“The House has received amended language from the City of Pawtucket following the hearing. Discussions are ongoing,” Berman wrote in an email.
Dylan Zelazo, deputy director of administration for Pawtucket mayor Donald Grebien, wrote Friday that the city thinks the “framework the House released last week will work and have suggested some amendments to provide options to meet the speaker’s request.”
“Everyone shares the goals of protecting taxpayers and guaranteeing that the PawSox remain a vibrant Rhode Island institution for decades to come,” Zelazo wrote in an email. “We anticipate seeing final proposed amendments from the House next week and continue to reiterate the importance of this project for our state.”
The team and the city want to build an $83-million ballpark on the site of the Apex department store building between Route 95 and the Seekonk River.
Earlier this year the Senate passed a bill to finance the ballpark with a series of bonds, backed by the state, that would be repaid by revenue and taxes generated in and around the stadium, riverfront and downtown.
Concerned that the plan was unpopular with voters and that state taxpayers could be hit with a large bill if the venture fell short of expectations, Mattiello removed the state guarantee in his version.
Without state backing, the bonds are expected to cost more, but no official estimates have been produced.
General Treasurer Seth Magaziner’s office said it is still working on a cost estimate of the Mattiello plan.
“We are analyzing the proposal and hopeful for a resolution that keeps the team in RI while protecting taxpayers,” said Magaziner spokesman Evan England in an email.
In addition to the PawSox, the franchise owners of the International League, where the team plays, must also sign off on the deal. The league has expressed concerns that the $45 million the team has offered to contribute to the stadium is too high.
International League President Randy Mobley told The Journal Wednesday that the “amount of investment into a ballpark [the PawSox] would not own is unprecedented in minor-league baseball.”
That investment poses two potential concerns for the league: that the team could become over-extended, and that it could set an expectation that other minor-league teams will make similar contributions to their ballparks in the future.
“From a league standpoint, it is in new territory,” Mobley said. “There comes a point when you have to say enough is enough.”