RI Commerce officials balk at McKee’s plan to transfer Tidewater Landing football stadium funds

This money – the majority of the state funding commitment for the whole project – had already been approved for a further stage of development around the project, which includes housing, commercial and retail space at the detail near the planned stadium on the banks of the Seekonk River. Moving the money to support the stadium would help ensure the project comes to fruition, without committing more public funds, McKee said.

But board members of the Commerce Corporation, the state’s economic development agency, questioned whether transferring those funds to the stadium would result in just one stadium being built – and nothing else. other.

“Isn’t that a big risk? asked board member Mike McNally.

The Commerce Corporation’s board of directors met in public for about 45 minutes to discuss the potential deal, debate its merits and ask the developer questions, then met behind closed doors for twice more. long time. No votes were taken; the board of commerce is expected to approve the plan moving forward, as it has approved initial funding.

McKee said after the meeting that the reaction had been “mixed,” but a majority of board members were in favor of at least getting more information, which he viewed as a positive.

For weeks, the state has debated what to do about the major cost inflation looming over the football stadium project, which was supposed to fill the economic development void left by the 2021 departure of the Pawtucket Red Sox for Worcester.

In February 2021, the state announced a public financing package for the Tidewater project: $36.2 million in so-called tax increment financing. About $27 million of that package came from the state and $9 million from the city. Tax increment financing occurs when a public body issues bonds and then pays them back with tax revenue associated with a special district. The project, originally set at $284 million, would also receive $10 million in tax credit proceeds.

A few weeks ago, however, faced with significant cost overruns, the developer and the town of Pawtucket returned to the state to seek an additional $30 million.

The cost of the stadium itself has gone from a budget of $83 million to $124 million, according to the developer. The overall project has grown from $284 million to $344 million, a city official said recently. The developer said it was committing $25 million more in venture capital and millions more in loans to help out. The costs of everything from steel to borrowings have risen over the past two years.

After weeks of negotiations, the McKee administration came back with a proposal that McKee – who chairs the board of commerce – said would protect taxpayers while moving the project forward. Under the tentative agreement McKee presented on Tuesday, the town of Pawtucket would also step forward with $10 million. This funding would be new, but Mayor Don Grebien said the exact details of where the city will find it have yet to be ironed out.

McKee said “1B”, the various developments around the stadium, won’t happen without “1A”, the stadium itself. He compared it to a Disney theme park: you have to build the castle first to get everything else around it.

“We have to build the castle, and I think we can do that in a very taxpayer-responsible way,” McKee said.

The meeting was also attended by representatives from Fortuitous Partners and Pawtucket officials, including Grebien. Brett Johnson, founder of Fortuitous, is trying to bring a United Soccer League championship team to Pawtucket, and is also considering other sports and events, including concerts.

Stefan Pryor, the commerce secretary who is set to step down soon to run in the Democratic primary for state treasurer, said the state will also need clear benchmarks to ensure progress. of phase 1B.

On Tuesday, board members like McNally weren’t convinced 1B would happen if the state pulled all of its funding to put it in the stadium.

“It’s not going to happen,” McNally said. “Unless the state steps in for something like another hundred million.”


Brian Amaral can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @bamaral44.

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