Pawtucket proposes $70m-plus in tax kickbacks for $45m USL stadium

There’s a winner in the competition to build on the riverfront site where the Pawtucket Red Sox turned up their noses at building a new stadium, and it’s … the crazy soccer stadium complex with the mountains in the background! (Helpfully blurred out in the latest rendering.) And according to the Providence Journal, while the USL stadium itself would only cost $45 million, the bigger project would stand to make a lot more than that in tax kickbacks:

The stadium would be the first piece of a larger, multi-part, mixed-use project Fortuitous is calling “Tidewater Landing,” that would take advantage of federal “Opportunity Zone” tax breaks…

The plan hinges on approximately $70 million to $90 million in public support, most of it from the state through a “tax increment financing” plan that allows the developer to use a portion of new tax revenue generated around the development to pay for construction. That total includes infrastructure like the pedestrian bridge, public parks and river walks on both banks of the Seekonk.

The bigger project includes 200 apartments, 100,000 square feet of shops and restaurants, a 200-room hotel with an “indoor sports event center,” and 200,000 square feet of office space, though it’s not clear whether all of that needs to be built in order for the tax subsidies to kick in. Also not clear: Where all of that $70-90 million would come from — the Journal says only $10 million would come from the city, so would some of it be state sales tax kickbacks? (Or maybe they mean that it would be $10 million in cash and the rest in tax increment financing, which somehow isn’t “city money” because Casino Night.) Also, why wouldn’t it require state legislative approval even if this would be a state-designated tax redirection zone. So many questions that the Journal could have answered, or at least asked!

All in all, this Pawtucket plan exemplifies a whole bunch of trends in the modern stadium game: throwing money at pro soccer because there’s a seemingly infinite number of available expansion franchises there (both in MLS and in the lower-level USL), providing public money via TIFs because it’s easier to pretend this is new money generated by the project even when it’s not, and the “kitchen sink” approach where you throw as many unrelated items into a development project as possible in order the muddy the financial waters to where everyone just throws up their hands at figuring out who’s being subsidized for what. Plus Opportunity Zones, the Trump-created tax break that is so confusing even tax experts aren’t sure how exactly it will end up working, and the ever-more-popular model of approving sports subsidies without legislative oversight. It’s the perfect crime. Er, downtown development project. I surely don’t know why I typed “crime.”


7 comments on “Pawtucket proposes $70m-plus in tax kickbacks for $45m USL stadium

  1. The powers in Pawtucket and Rhode Island were so, so skeptical about the PawSox ownership group McCoy Stadium redevelopment project. No way were they going taken in by those big city sharpies! Especially after the Curt Schilling 38 Studios fiasco. Now it looks like they are all happily signing off on an even bigger boondoggle sold them by an even more dubious set of characters.

  2. Rhode Island Oceaneers. Part 3.

    USL teams hemorrhage money. I count 12 cities with elected officials currently memorized by soccer stadium “vaportecture” and subsidizing their builds.

    Pass on the stadium. Pass on the USL franchise. (Disclaimer) Now to be had for the incredibly low fee of $7,000,000! Act fast! This is a short time offer! Franchises are limited!

    • Soccer Stadium Store ———

      Timmy: Daddy I want that soccer stadium for Christmas. Can I, can I? Oh, please!

      Dad: We’ll see Timmy. Santa might not be able to fit that in with his bag of toys.

      Timmy: I’m sure Santa can! Santa can do anything!

      Dad (Oh great! My son wants this city to subsidize another stadium for a billionaire).