The owners of the Pawtucket Red Sox have revealed the subsidies they’re seeking for their proposed new stadium in Providence, and it’s a whole hell of a lot more than the free city land they’ve been expected to ask for:
The team is asking state lawmakers to approve a guaranteed 30-year state lease of the new stadium that would commit taxpayers to pay about $5 million a year in rent, which would come out to $150 million over the life of the lease. The team would then sublease the stadium back from the state for $1 million a year, putting the net cost to taxpayers at $4 million annually, or $120 million over the life of the lease.
That’s a lot of numbers there, but just focus on that last one: Team owner Jim Skeffington wants the state of Rhode Island to pay him $4 million a year to play in his own stadium. That’d leave the public paying almost three-quarters of the $85 million construction cost, plus providing city land for $1 a year.
How on earth would this be a good idea?
The economic-impact study commissioned by the team from the consulting firm Brailsford & Dunlavey estimated games played in the new park will generate $12.3 million in direct spending and about $2 million a year in additional state tax revenue, which Skeffington said would further reduce the out-of-pocket cost of the park to taxpayers to about $2 million a year.
Woohoo! According to the team’s own economic projections, taxpayers would only take a $2 million a year bath on the stadium! That’s … not exactly a strong selling point, Jim, what else you got?
“In our present case, the new owners are taking all the risk of designing and completing the construction of a ballpark and are offering to pay 100% of the costs with our private funds,” he said. “We are using the lease/sublease arrangement as a vehicle to obtain financial support to help us keep the team in the state.”
So there you have it: The owners of the Boston Red Sox‘ top minor-league affiliate (who include some owners of the Red Sox themselves) are demanding that Rhode Island taxpayers foot the lion’s share of a new stadium, or else they’re going to move the team … somewhere. Somewhere that would have to be in New England, really, since the Sox want to keep their top prospects close by and stay near the team’s fan base, and no other suitors have emerged. But you don’t want to risk that, Rhode Island, so time to cough up $60 million (present value) worth of annual subsidies, plus free land, in order to get the team to move from one part of your state to another, because that’s sure to be a big economic boon!
All for a team that just sold for only $20 million, a fraction of the asking price for public subsidies for the stadium. This really couldn’t be a better time for local officials to try the eminent domain gambit.
Anyway, enjoy your blackmail threat, Rhode Islanders. Here’s some vaportecture porn to go with it. Not pictured: the redevelopment that was supposed to go on the site when the federal government spent $610 million moving a highway to clear it.