RI officials won’t vote on $38m PawSox subsidy demand yet, they have real work to do, okay?

I neglected to mention last week that the Pawtucket Red Sox had revealed the projected costs for their proposed new stadium, and it would be roughly $45 million from the team, $23 million from the state of Rhode Island, and $15 million from the city of Pawtucket. (The Providence Journal uses higher numbers because it adds up all principal and interest payments over time, which is stupid for the same reason it’d be stupid to add up all your mortgage payments over 30 years to describe the cost of your new house.) But you can forget all that for now, anyway, because the PawSox stadium plan appears to be going nowhere fast in the state legislature:

“The Senate has not received any legislation from the Governor’s office or the Pawtucket Mayor’s office,” [State Senate President Dominick] Ruggerio said in a statement. “At this point, it is too late in the session for a thorough, public review of a proposal of this magnitude. Should legislation be forthcoming, I am not opposed to reconvening in the fall to consider it in a deliberative and public manner.”

House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello had reacted coolly to the PawSox’s latest stadium proposal, indicating it wouldn’t get House consideration unless related legislation was introduced at the request of Governor Gina Raimondo.

“Speaker Mattiello is not putting a deal before the House Finance Committee that was negotiated by the governor, as the chairwoman of the Commerce Corporation, without her endorsement and her stamp of approval,” Mattiello spokesman Larry Berman, said in a statement Tuesday. “The speaker finds it highly unusual that the governor is unwilling to endorse a financial plan that she and her team negotiated. The stadium is a significant taxpayer investment, and with the governor sending mixed signals, it is likely too late in the session to initiate a proposal of this magnitude. The House Finance Committee has a great deal of other work to do.”

Oof — declining to take action on a requested stadium subsidy is one thing, but saying “We have a lot of other work to do, don’t bother me”? That’s cold.

To their credit, Rhode Island legislators appear to recognize that they have no good reason to throw a bunch of money at the PawSox owners, especially when the owners have promised not to threaten to move until 2020 to heal “wounds that were suffered by fans” the last time they threatened to move. Coming up next, probably: More threats to move. This doesn’t seem to be working out too well so far for Larry Lucchino and his fellow owners, but remember, they only have to win once.

RI officials talk a lot about new PawSox stadium plan, don’t say much of anything

In the wake of Rhode Island’s governor saying she might be okay with spending as much as $35 million on a new Pawtucket Red Sox stadium, several politicians in the state spent yesterday backing away from any such thing, including the governor herself:

House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, D-Cranston, insists any legislative package involving state financing of a new stadium must arrive with Gov. Gina Raimondo’s stamp of approval.

“I have no bill. I have no legislation. No proposals. No nothing,” he said Wednesday afternoon. “I just got their press packet today …. I will look at it in my leisure, which I have none. It’s not my issue.”

And:

Although [Gov. Gina] Raimondo on Tuesday and again on Wednesday afternoon rattled off multiple reasons why she concludes the proposal appears to “pay for itself,” “would be self-supportive,” is a “much better, much more reasonable proposal than last time,” her spokesman Mike Raia insisted Wednesday morning that “The Governor did not endorse the deal or throw her support behind it, as [The Providence Journal] reported.”

Raimondo did say that the latest team proposal (which, as Mattiello noted, isn’t really a formal proposal) is better than the team’s previous one, something that Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio echoed. But for now, this looks like lots of “we want to do something for the team, but we’re not going to make any commitments until we see which way the winds are blowing” posturing, which is about right for this stage of the game. Though “you’re not going to get a dime of public money until you can show clear and unassailable public benefits” works too, maybe somebody might want to try that?

RI governor says she’d consider spending $35m on new PawSox stadium, let the haggling begin

Ever since then-Pawtucket Red Sox owner James Skeffington demanded a $60 million subsidy for a new stadium and then up and died, his successor Larry Lucchino has been keeping the new-stadium campaign on simmer, saying he still wants some kind of public money, just he’s not sure how much or for a stadium where. Now, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo has put a price tag on what the state will offer, or at least a maximum, maybe:

On Friday, Gov. Gina Raimondo told The Providence Journal the state should pay “certainly no more” than $35 million. That’s the first time she has publicly stated any dollar amount under consideration.

Why $35 million? That’s the amount that, the Providence Journal reports, “consultants” say it would cost to “cure structural deficiencies” at McCoy Stadium, the PawSox’ current home. That would appear to be this study, which includes everything from fixing cracked sidewalks to replacing all the seats and player lockers, to the point where it’s tough to tell what should be considered “renovation” and what “maintenance” (i.e., stuff you’d need to do in a new stadium sooner or later anyway), not to mention how much should be “stuff the team that actually plays there and uses it should pay for.”

Note, incidentally, that there’s a perfectly reasonably precedent by which owners of buildings pay for things and charge their tenants for it: It’s called “rent.” And really, that’s what Gov. Raimondo should be thinking about: Not how much the state or city would put in up front, but that if the public is going to help finance a new building, the PawSox should pay it off over time with increased rent.

Right now, though, it looks like nobody’s talking about how a stadium lease would work, only how up-front costs would work, which is dunderheaded but also standard operating procedure in these matters. Anyway, Lucchino wouldn’t comment of Raimondo’s sort-of offer beyond to say that it was “interesting,” so there’s still likely to be plenty of haggling ahead on this one.

PawSox CEO: How about public gives us lots of money, we give them worthless deed to stadium?

Pawtucket Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino announced yesterday that he wants a new stadium in Pawtucket, paid for with the help of an undisclosed amount of public money — pretty much the same thing he said a year and a half ago when he was last heard from on this matter. But this time it’s different, says Lucchino, because it would be a publicly owned stadium:

The concept of a publicly owned stadium is a “complete reversal” from the team’s failed 2015 efforts to win public support for a privately owned stadium on former highway land in Providence, Lucchino said.

Uhhh. Dude. You know that public ownership of a stadium is mostly just a dodge to get out of paying property taxes, right? If Lucchino were proposing to let the city of Pawtucket actually control the stadium’s revenues, and maybe charge his team rent for playing there, that might qualify as a complete reversal, but needless to say he didn’t propose any of that.

Anyway, I’ve already been invited to appear on one radio show and one webcast (neither of which are at times I can make, unfortunately) to talk about this latest “announcement,” so clearly Lucchino’s statement accomplished what he set out to do, which is to jump-start talk about a new stadium, even after his last stadium funding request was roundly rejected and he promised to shut up about stadiums for five years so he could focus on healing “wounds that were suffered by fans” when he threatened to move the team to Worcester. If I were going on the radio, here’s what I’d say: “Don’t feed the trolls, people.”

Hartford finally set to open Yard Goats stadium, start losing $2m+ a year running it

Hartford Yard Goats opening day is just two weeks away, and Hartford is finally getting ready to welcome its new Double-A baseball team, just one year late after various catastophic construction screwups, and finally getting ready to have money rolling in instead of just going out. Right? Okay, maybe not:

Financial estimates show that professional baseball is a costly investment for Hartford and initial promises of new development surrounding the $71 million stadium have failed to materialize.

Projections show Hartford is expected to operate at a net loss on the downtown north development during the first and second year the stadium is open. The city will lose about $2 million this year and $3.5 million next year.

Uhh, okay, that’s new. And worse yet, the losses aren’t limited to the first two years — those are just the only years that the city has calculated so far, meaning losses could continue indefinitely.

The reason for running at a loss is that construction costs were supposed to be paid for with tax revenue from new development around the stadium, and instead nobody’s been building nothing except for some hotel-room conversions. So this is the same $63 million (plus free land) subsidy we’ve been talking about for more than a year, only counted out one year at a time instead of as a lump sum.

At least the stadium will be open, and Hartford residents will get to drown their sorrows in quality two-levels-below-the-majors baseball without driving 15 whole minutes to New Britain like the used to. I know it’s not much, but take your silver linings where you can get them, you know?

Yard Goats stadium sparking literally dozens of hotel-room conversions, yay?

Next in today’s rundown of questionable media spin, the Hartford Courant is reporting that “the city’s shiny new minor league ballpark has dramatically transformed what for decades was a just barren stretch of land north of downtown.” How dramatically? This dramatically:

The owners of the nearby Radisson Hotel are combining guest rooms on the top nine floors of the 18-story hotel into apartments. The $19.5 million project will create 96 rentals, some of which will overlook Dunkin’ Donuts Park. The first apartments are expected to be ready by this summer.

Hotel owner Inner Circle U.S. said the apartment project was planned prior to the plans for the stadium, but the ballpark helped sell the idea of rentals to Inner Circle’s lenders.

VERDICT: I do not think that word “dramatically” means what you think it means. Building a new sports facility may not have the kind of economic impact that sports team owners pretend it does, but it does have some, and “making the hotel-to-rental-apartment conversion that developers already had in the works marginally more marketable” is just about perfectly the size of it. Downtown Hartford is starting to draw more interest from renters with money, but that’s thanks to the Great Inversion, not anything to do with sports, and certainly not a minor-league baseball stadium that until recently wasn’t certain ever to open.

That said, I am eagerly awaiting the chance to take in a Yard Goats game this summer. I will almost certain make it a day trip from New York City, and will probably stop for pizza or falafel in New Haven. My footprint on the Hartford economy will be exceedingly light, but if some millennials want a view from their apartments of my car pulling in and out of the stadium parking lot, more power to them.

Hartford Yard Goats stadium may actually get finished, legal battle never will

And last but not least for the week, it’s time to check in with the ongoing Hartford Yard Goats stadium saga, which never fails to entertain. This week: FBI investigations and more lawsuit news!

  • The FBI has launched an investigation into now-fired developer Centerplan’s handling of stadium construction, one that Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin says was “prompted by information proactively shared by the City of Hartford.” In other words, Bronin tipped off the FBI to please look into these clowns to see if the public money that disappeared while in their hands was actually embezzled; the FBI said, sure, we don’t have much else going on right now.
  • Centerplan has upped the amount of money they’re demanding in their lawsuit against the city of Hartford, now asking for $90 million on the grounds they coulda finished the stadium, really, if the city didn’t keep giving them change orders.

At last word, at least, the stadium was on track to be ready for opening day on April 13, which means the Yard Goats may finally play a home game one of these days. Although:

[Arch Insurance senior vice president Patrick] Nails did offer one bit of concerning news, saying they are still finding minor defects in construction that the contractors are addressing.

“They’re pretty minor but the fact that we’re finding them is a concern,” he said.

Chompers and Chew Chew were not immediately available for comment.

New York Cosmos stadium plans dead, team and league may be too

In case you’re wondering what’s up with those plans for a $400 million stadium at Long Island’s Belmont Park racetrack for the minor-league New York Cosmos soccer team (which always sounded as crazy as that sentence, yes), they are now officially dead:

Empire State Development Corp. canceled its 4-year-old request for proposals, or RFP, at the site, closing the door on a plan to construct a 25,000-seat stadium on the property.

This may have had something to do with the fact that the Cosmos not only have made zero progress on actually building said stadium, but may be on the verge of folding, with the club furloughing employees and deferring making payroll payments, and the entire NASL possibly on the verge of collapse with several teams either leaving for other leagues or considering shutting down.

If there’s any silver lining here, it’s that all this happened before the state dedicated a huge plot of land to a stadium for a minor-league sports franchise in a league with an uncertain future. Not that those don’t work out sometimes — pretty much every league had an uncertain future at some point, even if you have to go back a couple of centuries to find it — but when those deals go bad, they go spectacularly bad.

Yard Goats stadium features rusting rebar, doors that don’t fit, hole in men’s room floor

Just when you thought the sad saga of the Hartford Yard Goats‘ never-completed stadium was almost over, along comes the stadium’s architect to do an audit of everything that’s still wrong with the place and make you goggle in horror once more:

The report, which The Courant obtained through a Freedom Of Information Act request, details exposed rusting rebar, cracking stairs, honeycombing and chipping concrete, improperly poured concourse slabs that invite pooling water, and clogged and improperly installed drains.

The report notes “cracks at both dugout roofs (underside fascia and above roof)” that “when exposed to freezing and thawing conditions will expand and move.”

Oof. That’s pretty bad, indeed, and suggests that there’s a lot more work to—

The report detailed multiple instances of doors being much smaller than required to match openings, which resulted in large amounts of sealant being used to close gaps, electrical outlets installed in the wrong places and in contrast to the designed drawings, improperly installed sprinklers, cable trays that interfere with signs, and gaps where walls and other structural elements meet throughout the ballpark.

Man, who were these bozos doing the construction work on this place? Anyway—

The report, dated Sept. 5, found repeated instances of “daylight” — around doors in premium suites, around ventilation and exhaust ducts, in the roof above the fireplace and sports bar, and in one case a gap in a men’s room floor that allows one to see into the floor below.

Guh.

The city’s insurance company still needs to hire a new contractor (or the old contractor, but maybe that wouldn’t be the best idea, under the circumstances) to repair all these defects and finish other unfinished elements, all in time for the stadium to open next April. Oh, and it’s about to be winter in Hartford, which tends to come with ice storms. There’s still a chance that the opening day 2017 construction deadline is blown, and the Eastern League ends up pulling the Yard Goats franchise and sending it to another city — or that Hartford just says screw it, slaps a new coat of paint on everything, and opens up a brand new taxpayer-funded ballpark where you get to look down on your fellow fans while peeing. Either way, it promises to be a lot more entertaining than watching Double-A baseball.

Yard Goats stadium work set to restart, we may have to find someone new to laugh at now

Everyone rejoice! The city of Hartford and their insurer have agreed to a plan to finish construction on the Hartford Yard Goats‘ stadium by next spring, meaning there will still be a Hartford Yard Goats next spring:

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said the city had reached an agreement in principle with Arch Insurance to have the bonding surety company take over construction of Dunkin’ Donuts Park and pay for the cost – a plan that would have the Hartford Yard Goats play their first-ever home game on April 13, 2017.

Now all that remains to be determined is who’ll actually do the construction work: Arch could still rehire Centerplan, which botched the initial construction deadline, though city officials would rather not see them back. Presumably everyone involved can figure out how to finish off a mostly built stadium over the course of the next seven months, though with the Yard Goats, you can never say never.

If there’s a silver lining at all, it’s that Arch will have to foot the bill for any additional costs, so Hartford taxpayers are just on the hook for $63 million in cash plus free land for the project. In exchange, they’ll get all the excitement of Double-A baseball, plus getting to be the laughingstock of the sports world for a year. And who can put a price on that?