Rhode Island Passes Bill To Help Keep PawSox In State

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island lawmakers moved Friday to help secure the Pawtucket Red Sox' future in the state, offering to forfeit up to $38 million in city and state taxes on a new stadium and its surrounding area.

The General Assembly passed legislation to enable the team, state and city to begin shopping for bonds to finance a new stadium at Slater Mill in Pawtucket. Lawmakers spent months negotiating the deal, but the final bill was passed just over 24 hours after it was first introduced in a committee.

The bill's architects said the legislation doesn't finalize a deal. They still have to make sure they can secure the bonds at economically feasible rates.

Lawmakers said the bond market would ultimately determine whether a deal is made.

Under the legislation, the PawSox would contribute $45 million to the $83 million project. It would also be responsible for any cost overruns.

The state and city would be responsible for the remaining $38 million in bonds issued by the Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency.

The plan, pushed by Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, would finance that money with so-called "special revenue bonds." Only tax revenue generated directly by the stadium and its surrounding area would go toward paying off the bonds.

If revenues fall short, the state wouldn't need to settle the debt. It's less risky but more expensive to finance bonds when they aren't guaranteed by the state.

House officials said they can't estimate the added costs until they begin shopping for the bonds.

Senate officials estimated the total cost of the stadium, including the team's contributions, would likely be more than $50 million costlier than the plan they passed earlier in the session.

That plan would have guaranteed $23 million from the state and $15 million from the city for the project. Under the new deal, taxpayers are no longer on the hook for that money.

The PawSox are the Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. Team officials said it would be premature at this point to comment on the legislation.

Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien and the city's congressional delegation have said a new stadium is critical to the city's economic interests.

Worcester, Massachusetts, has also been wooing the team. That city could still potentially lure the team north.

Republicans, who are dramatically outnumbered in the state's legislature, described the legislation as a significant risk to the state, pointing to declining interest in baseball and Pawtucket's fiscal troubles.

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