The potential move of the Pawtucket Red Sox to downtown Providence has caused heated debate between the public and the General Assembly since the idea was first floated earlier this year. On Thursday, opponents of the move rallied outside of the State House to express their passionate disapproval for the move.
Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien shared his own memories of McCoy Stadium at the rally, saying that he knows that he’s not the only one with such an emotional attachment.
“Like many of you, the first baseball game I ever attended was at McCoy. As a kid, I used to go to McCoy with my parents and grandparents to enjoy the games and see the future Red Sox greats before they were household names,” he said.
“I am certain all of you have similar experiences and traditions that you hold dearly as well. The memories and traditions formed at McCoy are things we all cherish. Memories we fear Rhode Island’s kids may never get to experience for themselves.”
Grebien continued to speak about the stadium’s previous ownership under Ben Mondor, and how Mondor was dedicated to the Pawtucket community as well as the team. The new ownership does not hold such sentiment.
“The new ownership has a very different business model, one that some could say is totally contrary to what exists there now. It lacks the vision, compassion, and commitment to the core principles that have made the franchise so successful,” Grebien said.
After his speech, Grebien added that the citizens of Pawtucket have not been involved in any of the business decisions the new owners have made. Residents have not even been made privy to the feasibility study that was reportedly conducted to determine the condition of McCoy.
“What we’re trying to understand, and what we’ve asked for from the ownership, is a feasibility study that they’ve done to give us an idea. How bad is it? If it’s bad, show us it’s bad,” he said.
Grebien is not the only one who feels this way, though. Sam Bell, the Rhode Island State Coordinator for the Progressive Democrats of America, has his own reasons opposing the PawSox becoming the ProvSox.
“There’s so many issues,” he began. “It starts with the basic principles of the public planning. Taking away a public park, flooding the area with surface parking, clogging out businesses, creating massive amounts of noise that disrupts the residents who live there.”
According to Bell, most people who he has spoken with who live or work around the vacant I-195 lands, which is where the new stadium would be built, do not want it there. The request for public money to help fund the project is also wrong in Bell’s eyes.
“It’s the public’s money. The amount they’re asking for is grotesque,” he said. “The amount they are asking for here is obscene to a degree that we often don’t even see.”
“I actually think it’s bad for Providence, to move it into that location, which is going to be a park, and it would hurt Pawtucket to leave it. One of the great things about this is that there’s so many issues and people come at it with so many different perspectives, but everyone agrees, we have to stop this deal,” Bell added.
Economic development has been one of the biggest talking points in support of a new stadium. Sharon Steele, a board member of the Jewelry District Association, finds that exact reason is why everyone should be fighting against a stadium. If a stadium were to be built, it would only bring minimum wage jobs, rather than small businesses that could directly benefit the community. Steele also mentioned that the park would help to draw in business more so than a stadium.
“Parkland is a hugely important center place for appropriate development,” she said. “Whether you look at Central Park, or you look at all the other magnificent parks across the country, and the I-195 land was specifically made for economic development, and a stadium simply does not fulfill that specific requirement.”
With both the House of Representatives and the Senate in recess until September, it’s hard to say what the fate of the PawSox will be. Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello has given his support for the move, but he has also said that he will not go against what the public ultimately wants. Unless something major happens between now and September, the public seems to believe that the PawSox should stay right at home, in Pawtucket.