If the PawSox do decamp for Worcester in two years, as seems certain but is not, there is blame enough to go around. The team owners say Rhode Island did not really want them, and they got their first taste of scorn during the imbroglio that arose when the governor, Gina Raimondo, flip-flopped against the initial proposal to relocate to Providence.
I favored that proposal but opposed the owners’ ridiculous opening gambit, which was treated by most opponents and the media as if it were a take-it-or-leave-it deal. So when Brown University joined Raimondo in turning tail, and leading owner Jim Skeffington died, the proposal quickly evaporated, and the PawSox future parked in limbo until the Apex proposal to remain in Pawtucket eventually emerged.
Today, if the Providence proposal had been accepted in 2015, the ProvSox or the ProSox (or the PawSox if the name were kept for valid sentimental reasons) might be finishing up their first season in the new stadium.
Two frauds halted that prospect in its tracks. First was the purposeful misinterpretation by the media of the owners’ opening gambit as serious, even though it was obviously a starting point for talks. With the 38Studios scandal still fresh in the public mind, this knowing media falsehood tilted the public against the deal and paved the way for opponents to treat the issue as a private stadium vs. a public park – even though the city’s new waterfront was already festooned with parks. Raimondo’s flip and Brown’s absquatulation sealed the fate of the proposal.
I was for it primarily because I hoped that the stadium, designed as a classic ballpark of old, along the lines of beloved Fenway Park, might have led to a rethink of the modernist style in vogue for redeveloping the I-195 corridor. That is, I had hoped that the stadium would cause the 195 commission to turn thumbs down on modernist design proposals then in the pipeline, and ask their developers to redo them to fit in with the traditional stadium and the mostly traditional neighborhoods of the Jewelry District and Fox Point across the Providence River. The result would have set new development in Providence on a track to strengthen rather than weaken the brand of the city and state, which is, or at least was, based on historical beauty. That would have boosted economic growth in the city and state (including Pawtucket).
Instead, the Providence proposal and its traditional stadium fell through, the modernist 195 projects moved forward, more of the same ilk were proposed, leading to the Fane Tower proposal – which, however overwrought and uncongenial to the city’s historical fabric, is a logical progression of flawed development trends in Providence.
Some blame must accrue to those, like myself, who thought the owners of the PawSox should pay the entire bill for a new stadium, whether it was in Providence or Pawtucket. Since the team is owned by businessmen with a net worth of some $5-$6 billion, that seems reasonable. It is reasonable. But it is not the way such things are done. Thrown into the negotiations mix, first in Providence and then in Pawtucket, this attitude made a deal fair to city and state taxpayers more difficult to achieve politically.
When the venue switched from Providence back to Pawtucket, the bonanza of a team located amid a civic renaissance faded in the imagination of the owners. Even though the Apex site was more alluring than the current site, to the owners it seemed somewhat shopworn, the same-old same-old amid a potential rather than an actual urban revival. It did not glitter.
Flagging enthusiasm on the owners’ part showed in their lack of attention to the design of the stadium. This was evident in the desultory sketches of the ballpark and its surroundings at the Apex site compared with those that accompanied the proposed relocation to Providence.
Remember, Providence and Worcester vie for second place in size to Boston in New England. Compared with Pawtucket, a much larger economic and financial advantage to the state and the team arose from the Providence site at the crossing of two interstates, on the banks of a beautiful river, amid a robust downtown economy. Losing that vision sapped the owners’ interest, to the detriment of Pawtucket’s hopes, and allowed Worcester to worm its way into the owners’ minds if not their hearts. I think the owners probably feel they are stuck with Worcester after their poor treatment by Rhode Island.
But this is not over. Worcester has a signed piece of paper but it does not have a team. Not yet. Reviving the Providence proposal might tip the game back toward Rhode Island.
Good analysis as I was quite involved in the Providence proposal. However! I think it is advisable for all concerned to never utter PawSox again, at least as far as the Pawtucket mayor is concerned. They must immediately look to #NextStepPawtucket – for instance, there is a TopGolf proposal for Cranston at the worst location imaginable – in the overdeveloped, admitted by RIDOT “failed intersection” areas of Sockanosset Crossroad and Pontiac and Reservoir – with huge community opposition – how perfect for the Apex location. The final decision – and we must treat it as if it is – of the PawSox opens up all kinds of potential for Pawtucket (yes, my home town, having left 30 years ago to better educate and provide for my family)… Soccer comes to mind. Moving municipal offices to McCoy and opening up a Garden City 2 in its place? What about the continuing threat of Hasbro to go to Providence for its worldwide headquarters? How about the Apex property? No time can be wasted in assuring the people and the business owners of Pawtucket that life goes on – and it starts today.
Indeed. The best shot for Pawtucket is building on its micro brewery consortium possibilities.
With one caveat – Hasbro moving to Providence for its worldwide headquarters makes sense. Providence is a world class city, no suburb is suitable for such.
Wonderful summary, David. Unfortunate sad and inefficient world of sticky businesses practices in RI.
David, well said. ProJo coverage was generally negative.
Kate Bramson’s reporting was more often detailed and informational, but it was always framed as a local drama vs. a forward-looking, can-do opportunity.
Sadly, Speaker Mattiello could have supported a statewide referendum, but chose not to risk his seat by placating his “price of tomatoes” constituency.
Skeffington’s intitial, gold-plated Providence concept didn’t help matters -it alienated many. The stealth purchase of a more suitable lot by Rhode Island Hospital doomed the bid in the Capitol City. How short-sighted and selfish can a community be? All that benefit, lost to Worcester… WORCESTER!!! Rhode Island may be a wonderful place, but its existing resources are limited and need our support. How could they screw this up?!?…
Very well said, David.
Herr Brussat writes as knowledgeably as anyone about this history. We are dealing with the snakes and skunks of the Paw and Red Sox, and, for once, Rhode Island acted with a degree of statesmanship. Meanwhile, Massachusetts offers its corrupt resources to underwrite the boondoggle in Worcester. The Boston Globe makes a splash of supporting journalists, but has no compunction about undermining its own writers by making them recycle its prepared-in-advance press releases. I will make this prediction: In 20 years Worcester’s public schools will be what Boston’s and Oakland’s are today: A crime of two centuries. Pawtucket should redirect its best offer to the New York Yankees and New York Mets; and this writer owes an apology to real snakes and skunks.
I guess Mr. Brussat must have been out of the state for the better part of a year while the PawSox negotiated a stadium deal with the I-195 Commission in the person of Chairman Joe Azrack.
Mr. Brussat’s absence would also account for his wildly ahistorical claim about the media. The ProJo, Mr. Brussat’s Alma Mater, was all for the stadium and then some, even as the taxpayer price tag escalated on a seemingly monthly basis to nearly triple the original estimate.
Maybe I was out to lunch, Brian, but I doubt it. After Skeffington in April 2015 announced a deal that called for $120 million in public subsidies for an $85 million stadium, I don’t think much changed. Maybe around the edges, but the public attitude toward the proposal remained set in concrete. The negotiations collapsed five months later, in September 2015. Anyhow, that’s my impression of how things went down. Whether the Journal supported the proposal editorially is not to the point; the news coverage was generally negative in the Journal and throughout the local media, seeming more an attempt to lead public opinion, not to inform it. Newswise, that was unprofessional.
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