GoLocalProv.com came out today with an editorial, “Pawsox Owners’ Ask Is Failed Community Leadership and Ultimate Greed.” It says: “Terry Murray and Tom Ryan asking Pawtucket to float a bond is like Daddy Warbucks shaking down Annie and Sandy for some cash. It is cartoonesque.”
Quite right. I supported the original proposal to build a new PawSox stadium in downtown Providence, on the 195 land at the intersection of Routes 95 and 195. That would have made a lot more money. But it failed because opponents – preferring a proposed public park in an area that is already saturated with parks – were able to tar the proposed ballpark with the public subsidy sought by the team’s wealthy owners. Now the owners (minus the late Jim Skeffington Sr.) have retreated back to Pawtucket.
I think the owners should pay for the stadium. It would be crumbs off their plates. Unless this proposal is really a cover for an eventual relocation of the team out-of-state, I have no doubt that the owners will come around, as they had already begun to do in Providence when the elder Skeffington passed away. By then, the owners had already lost the public because of their foolish opening financial package.
Vital to the latest proposal’s viability, however, is to avoid turning downtown Pawtucket into Office Park Tucket. Unlike the design for the Providence stadium, the design for the new Pawtucket stadium seems as if it could be modernist, as do the several proposed investment buildings nearby.
One of them, a seven-story glass box, would loom over the beautiful and historic Pawtucket Congregational Church. Together, these buildings would block the view of downtown Pawtucket from the stands, and serve as a new eyesore from elsewhere in the city. They would serve as a disincentive to visiting downtown Pawtucket, whether for a game or any other reason.
The buildings portrayed in the map atop this post do not reflect their final designs, but they do reflect the sensibility that seems to be in the minds of the owners – as, perhaps, does the image below of a proposal to rebuild the stadium in place. Are they saying they thought they could not get away with cheesy crap in Providence but they can in Pawtucket? This latest design is a major turnabout from the owners’ excellent design for the stadium in Pro- vidence. It was that design that hooked me on the Providence proposal, in the hope that if it were built, the unsympathetic modernist designs for the innovation district on the vacant I-195 land might be pushed in a nicer direction, one that would strengthen rather than undermine the brand of the city and state.
Because Pawtucket saw much more devastating urban renewal than Provi- dence in the 1950s and 1960s, the job of reviving its built environment is more difficult than in Providence. But it is doable. Pawtucket can be saved by building in ways that fit into the city’s historical character. That will probably not happen, however, if the PawSox hammer the final nails into the coffin of Pawtucket’s remaining beauty. If the team owners hope to generate visceral support in the public for the new stadium, however it is financed, the arch- itecture for it and its associated investment properties will require a look more in sync with public taste.
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I imagine you are right, and that my hope that the members of the ownership team who have made many millions in this region, and might hope to “pay it forward” by building the stadium with their own money, is profoundly naive. But you know what they say about hope? It springs eternal!
I don’t think they’ll come around. Public subsidies are too important to professional sports owners. Any project that goes forward without them makes the others look bad and makes future deals harder to get. I thought I remembered bid to buy a team that failed because they weren’t seeking subsidies, but I can’t place it.