The new owners of the Pawtucket Red Sox presented the initial artists renderings for a new, urban ballpark in downtown Providence, this week and revealed the expected economic impact to the State and City.
The art, depicting what the ballpark ‘could’ look like, reflects the architectural character of the surrounding neighbourhood with brick exterior walls, exposed structural steel, and high arched openings, and, in a nod to the maritime heritage of the Ocean State, shows how the ballpark would feature an attractive, iconic lighthouse.
This design includes the ability of fans to circle the entire concourse via an elevated walkway that includes picturesque views of the river and an opportunity to catch home run balls, especially during batting practice.
Families and children can also enjoy a Kids Corner, which will feature picnic and barbeque areas, whiffle ball fields, and a verdant seating berm. A new food court would provide a host of menu items.
Pawtucket Red Sox President, James Skeffington, said:
We’ve worked diligently these past few months to first ensure the land we selected is appropriate for a ballpark. Once we learned that the site was an ideal location, we then turned our focus to designing and estimating the cost to build a state-of-the-art, community ballpark, and better understand the level of benefits it would reap for the state and city of Providence.
The information we now have convinces us that our enthusiasm for this project and location is well-founded, and we believe this urban ballpark will be catalytic to further development within our capital city.
Pawtucket Red Sox Chairman, Larry Lucchino, continued:
We have the opportunity to convert a unique parcel of urban land into a vibrant gathering place for people of all backgrounds. We are experienced in the transformative powers that a well-placed ballpark can have; we believe we can make this happen here.
The proposed ballpark, with room for approximately 10,000 spectators, would sit at the southwest corner of the site, with home plate placed at the Dyer—Eddy—Ship Street intersection. The three-storey structure, approximately 50ft-high, would open towards the northeast, with spectacular left field views of downtown Providence and majestic right field views of the Providence River and the historic East Side/Fox Point neighbourhoods. A new pedestrian bridge over the river would bring fans to a new Right Field Plaza.
The diamond would feature asymmetrical dimensions, an intimate setting, with seats down low and close the field.
While designed for baseball, the ballpark could also accommodate full NCAA playing fields for football, soccer, and lacrosse. This versatility would allow the venue to draw guest and visitors for sporting and community events year-round.
Approximately three acres of landscaped public open space, with picnic and play areas, would be available to the public, as would the enhanced network of public pedestrian greenways.
As a state-of-the-art player development facility, the ballpark would have expanded clubhouses, batting tunnels, and training and conditioning areas. Teams participating in collegiate and other special events would also have locker room facilities.
The initial conceptual ballpark designs were created by DAIQ of Boston, MA, which has served as the architect for Fenway Park’s improvements, and by Populous, of Kansas City, MO, one of the nation’s leaders in ballpark development.
Proposal for New Ballpark
The new owners of the Paw Sox also released a proposal to design and build a new multi-purpose ballpark and an adjacent parking garage. The ballpark proposal offer was in response to a request by the State and City to specify how both the State and City could offer financial support to keep the Triple A Red Sox Minor League Team in Rhode Island.
Skeffington indicated that the team commissioned Brailsford & Dunlavey (B&D), a nationally-known economic consulting firm that has been involved in similar ballpark planning projects, to prepare an economic impact study (EIS) to calculate and estimate the dollar value of the economic activity and benefits a new ballpark would generate for both the State and City. The study revealed that a new ballpark is expected to generate an estimated USD$12.3m annually in direct spending. The B&D study projects the State will receive approximately US$2m in recurring tax revenues each year from a combination of state taxes (sales taxes, income taxes and hotel taxes). The EIS projects the City will receive approximately $170,000 annually in incremental tax revenues from the project.
The proposal outlined by the new owners would not involve the issuance of any public bonds or debt. The new owners will pay for 100% of the design and construction costs with its private funds. The new owners would assume all the risk of building, completing the construction and the long term operation of the ballpark. Under the proposal, the owners, upon completion of the construction, will lease the ballpark to the State for 30 years. Simultaneously, the owners will sublease the ballpark from the State for 30 years. The lease/sublease arrangement provides the mechanism for the State to offer financial support to help offset the US$85m cost of building the ballpark project.
After taking into account the annual USD$1m sublease payment made by the team to the State and the USD$2m of new tax revenues forecasted by B&D to be generated by the operation of the ballpark project, the net net annual cost to the State under the lease/sublease arrangement is estimated to be approximately USD$2m. The lease proposal offered to the State is patterned after the lease agreement the State recently approved in connection with the South Street Landing project which calls for the restoration of the electric power plant under a lease which will allow URI and RIC to build a joint nursing school. It also is similar to the lease plan that currently subsidises the PawSox use of McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket.
To effectuate the proposed plan, the legislature would be asked to authorise the State to lease the ballpark for 30 years for an annual rental of approximately USD$5m, less a USD$1m sublease payment by the team to the State. The net USD$4m annual rent is further reduced by USD$2m of new tax revenue that the B&D report projects the State will receive from the operation of the ballpark project.
Skeffington said the owners will invest a total of USD$85m into the new ballpark; with the total project estimated to cost USD$70m. The relocation of utilities presently under the site – namely the storm water/sewage facilities owned by the Narragansett Bay Commission and the gas line owned by National Grid – is projected to cost an additional USD$5m based on current estimates. The final USD$10m of the USD$85m project represents the new owners’ investment in a new 750 car garage that it will jointly own with the developer of the South Street Landing project.
The new owners proposal also asks for assistance from the City. The proposal asks two things from the City. First, it asks the City to amend the zoning code to allow the ballpark to be built as a permitted use on the subject site. The current zoning ordinance allows a ballpark as a variance instead of permitted use. Second, the proposal requests the City to enter into a 30-year tax treaty that will make the ballpark exempt from city real estate taxes. Skeffington said the proposed ballpark is a community facility. Most of the Triple A minor league ballparks are exempt from property taxes.
Skeffington emphasised that the new proposal is being submitted to the State for its review and consideration. He said:
Our proposal represents a good faith effort to propose a way for the State and the City to help support the new owners in their efforts to keep the team in Rhode Island. Hopefully the submission of the lease/sublease proposal will allow us to start a dialogue with the State and City that will lead to the formulation of a joint proposal that will meet with the approval of all three parties – the State, City and the new owners.
All minor league baseball parks require some substantial form of financial support from government. But most ballparks are built by cities or quasi- governmental entities using public bonds and are leased to the AAA ball club at low rents to induce teams to locate in their city. We are proposing something different. In our present case, the new owners are taking all the risk of designing and completing the construction of a ballpark and are offering to pay 100% of the costs with our private funds. We are using the lease/sublease arrangement as a vehicle to obtain financial support to help us keep the team in the State.
We think our new ballpark is a game changer for both the State and City; we believe it serves as a catalyst for others to join us in investing private capital and creating new employment.