House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said Friday he wants the state's economic development agency and the Pawtucket Red Sox to renegotiate a deal for a new stadium that will reduce the risk to taxpayers and perhaps require the team or its owners to shoulder more of the cost.
Mattiello, a Cranston Democrat, told The Providence Journal in a podcast posted Friday that he's been knocking on doors in his district and the overwhelming majority of people are telling him "no public money" for the project. The cost of the $83 million deal lawmakers are considering shares the costs among the state, Pawtucket and the team, the Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.
"What I'm hearing right now is, the public is not necessarily buying in to the proposition of putting public money, or a large amount of public money, into this project. So I think it's incumbent upon the governor and the Commerce Corp. to listen to what I'm saying," he said, adding, "I think the governor and the PawSox and the Commerce Corp. should roll up their sleeves, renegotiate this thing."
Under the proposal, the team would contribute $12 million to the project up front and $33 million financed by a taxable lease revenue bond issued by the Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency. The city would contribute $15 million, and the state would pay $23 million, also financed with bonds from the Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency.
Asked for specific concerns about the deal, Mattiello said the public wants it renegotiated. He added that if Pawtucket has a problem paying back the bonds, it's going to be a state problem in the future.
"We're backstopping this stuff. If it's such a great deal, perhaps a lot of the backstop should come from the PawSox and the owners of the PawSox and take the risk away from the taxpayers," Mattiello said. "So, there are things we can do to tweak this deal. And perhaps maybe a little more money has to go in from the owners. I'm not going to negotiate it."
He added that he wants to be comfortable that there is no additional risk to the taxpayers.
"Right now, I'm just not convinced we're there," he said.
The PawSox say their longtime home, McCoy Stadium, is out of date. PawSox Chairman Larry Lucchino has said the team's owners "have learned our lessons" after their 2015 request for about $120 million from taxpayers for a new stadium in Providence met strenuous public opposition. He has asked people to keep an open mind this time, calling it a "very different proposal" that will pay for itself over time. He has said the stadium project would "revitalize an underperforming part of downtown" Pawtucket by spurring nearby development of stores, restaurants and homes.
Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo has said if the team wants the state to help build the stadium it's going to have to disclose more of its financial information.