Pawtucket Mayor warns of “dooms day;” offers up plan B for financing stadium

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PAWTUCKET, R. I. (WLNE) — Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien warned that the state is in jeopardy of losing the PawSox.

At a press conference Tuesday, he urged lawmakers to act immediately and vote on the Slater Mill stadium deal in early January.

“Time is against us and that’s what this really is about for us today,” said Grebien. “What we nearly have reached is dooms day.”

The lengthy process to seek approval from the general assembly has enabled other cities including most notably Worcester to express interest. In fact, team owners visited there just last week.

“The Worcester Mass deal is real, make no mistake about it,” said Grebien.

Lawmakers here in Rhode Island have said they will take up the legislation in the New Year.

ABC6 News caught up with PawSox General Manager Dan Rea shortly before the Mayor’s press conference and asked about the likelihood of the stadium moving out of Pawtucket.

“We have been pretty transparent all along that we would have a period of exclusivity through the end of the June legislative session and once that came and went we would then start to return the calls that we’ve received from communities. So, we’ve gone through that process and we’ve been transparent and open about that process,” said Rea.

Mayor Grebien says if lawmakers won’t pass this legislation he’s willing to offer up a plan B. That plan would include the city of Pawtucket fully financing the state’s share of the deal with the team still pitching in $45 million.

“We’re doing the ‘Hail Mary’ here because we are trying to think of it differently. We know how important this is to Pawtucket,” said Grebien. “If the state leaders don’t have the courage to do that then give us the opportunity.”

 Under that deal, Grebien would ask the state to direct income and sales tax as well as other state revenue from the ball park district to the city.

House Speaker Nick Mattiello issued the following statement after Mayor Grebien’s press conference; “I have a great deal of respect for Mayor Grebien and his desire to get a deal done to keep the PawSox in his city.  He has not provided me with an alternative proposal that he discussed today, but the House Finance Committee will certainly be willing to assess it… Should the Senate approve stadium legislation in the upcoming session, the House Finance Committee will hold a public hearing and give it a transparent and thorough review.  The strong opinion I have heard from my constituents, and from what the vast majority of House colleagues are telling me they are hearing in their districts, is that the public does not want state taxpayer money spent on this private venture.  I suggest the parties that put this deal together renegotiate it in order to make it more acceptable to the citizens of the state.”      

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