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PawSox stadium legislation introduced, will be vetted this fall

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island leaders signaled Tuesday they plan to take up the proposal for a new, $83-million Pawtucket Red Sox stadium later this year, after Gov. Gina Raimondo announced her support for a revised version of the plan.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman William Conley introduced the revamped bill on Tuesday, and said his committee will consider it this fall. The Senate is not yet committed to holding a special session to vote on the legislation, spokesman Greg Pare said.

“I think keeping the PawSox in Pawtucket and in the state of Rhode Island is really important to our future,” Conley told reporters at a briefing about the bill Tuesday afternoon. He emphasized that the legislation will “absolutely, positively not” be voted on in the few days left before lawmakers adjourn their regular session.

House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said a companion bill will be introduced in his chamber by members of the Pawtucket delegation, and he said it “will be fully reviewed by the House Finance Committee this fall.” But he also stopped short of committing to a special session this fall to vote on the plan.

Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor, who helped negotiate the PawSox deal on behalf of the Raimondo administration, sent a letter Tuesday outlining his reasons for supporting Conley’s legislation. “This plan offers a responsible way to keep the ‘Paw’ in the PawSox,” he wrote.

“As we conduct our work in Commerce, we aim to achieve two objectives: to promote economic prosperity and to protect taxpayers,” Pryor wrote. “The proposal for a Ballpark at Slater Mill would accomplish both objectives.”

The new bill maintains the same financing split as the original plan.

State taxpayers would contribute $23 million to a new publicly-owned ballpark in downtown Pawtucket, to be paid back with tax revenue from the stadium and a surcharge on ticket sales. The city of Pawtucket would contribute $15 million, and the PawSox would pay $45 million, with $33 million of the team’s portion paid through a 30-year lease agreement.

Crucially, the new legislation spells out that Pawtucket is backstopping its own bonds by pledging its state aid – language that Raimondo said gave her the confidence to support the bill. The team has committed to covering any cost overruns.

The plan to build a new stadium at the Apex site in downtown Pawtucket was on life support earlier this month after the General Assembly gave it a lukewarm reception and Raimondo said she could not support it because it left state taxpayers on the hook for Pawtucket’s debt.

The new bill explicitly says Pawtucket will guarantee the bonds that the city floats to pay for its portion of the stadium. The Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency (PRA), a quasi-public body, will float the 30-year bonds for both the city and state portion of the stadium debt.

A second bill submitted Tuesday authorizes the PRA to issue the bonds by expanding the power of all the state’s municipal redevelopment agencies “to finance the construction of projects for residential, recreational, commercial, industrial, institutional, public, or other purposes contemplated by a redevelopment plan,” according to a summary.

Under the plan, both the city and state expect to pay back the bonds using sales and property tax revenue generated from the PawSox, visitors to the ballpark and other development expected to crop up around the new downtown site.

The bill also says the state would receive funds from a special ticket surcharge, but Conley said the price of the surcharge has not yet been determined.

The PawSox issued a statement Tuesday evening thanking the governor and her team for supporting the proposal and referencing a “final resolution” in the fall. “While there are no guarantees of successful adoption of the legislation, we are well aware of the importance of this milestone,” the statement said.

Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien previously said team executives were only committing to negotiate with Rhode Island until July 1, and after that would consider moving the club elsewhere. A spokesman for the team said they would not be taking questions beyond the statement.

“All I can say to the PawSox is there’s not a better place in the universe than Pawtucket, Rhode Island, for them,” Conley said. “And for them to go anywhere else would be foolish.”

Raimondo threw her weight behind the legislation Monday – something Mattiello demanded in order for the House to even consider the proposal. “At the end of the day, I don’t think this is going to cost the taxpayers of Rhode Island anything,” she said.

Pryor agreed, saying he is confident the revenue from the ballpark would cover the state’s $23 million share of the project. “We expect it to exceed it, but we’re confident that it will cover it,” Pryor said.

“That’s a dream,” said Rep. Patricia Morgan, the Republican House Minority Leader. “We don’t have this money. I’ll tell you who does: the owners of the PawSox.”

Morgan sits on the House Finance Committee that will consider the bill in the fall. She said she doesn’t want taxpayer dollars funding the stadium, even if that means the team decides to leave the state for a sweeter deal.

“That would be unfortunate, because they do have a loyal base here,” she said. “But it is a private company. They have to look out for themselves and we have to look out for ourselves.”

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Local News, News, Providence, sports, West Bay

Rhody Rams fans thrilled at first-round win

[anvplayer video=”1283724″] WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Fans of the University of Rhode Island men’s basketball team got to see the Rams defeat the Creighton Bluejays on Friday, days after the team punched a ticket to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1999.

“We’re not done yet, hopefully we can make it through the next round and keep the momentum going,” said Richard Siravo, a Class of ’83 alumnus who watched the game at Arooga’s in Warwick with a large crowd of fans. He brought his son Christopher, a longtime fan and former ball boy, to watch the game with him. “You just knew they were going to win today,” the younger Siravo said.

Ben Ratier is a URI junior, too young to even remember the last time the team went to the big dance.

“It’s good to see them playing this well finally, they struggled a lot all year but they’re finally getting it together and they look pretty scary,” Ratier said. “I was only two years old the last time they made it so this is definitely the best I’ve ever seen them play.”

Tom and Bonnie Wheeler, a married couple from Wakefield who both attended URI, traveled to Pittsburgh last weekend with Tom’s sister Ruth Ann Parker (another alumna) to watch the team in the Atlantic 10 conference tournament. The win helped the team punch their ticket to the NCAA tournament.

“It’s been a long drought, but it’s over,” Bonnie Wheeler said. “We’re here.” The trio traveled back to Rhode Island from the game on the same flight as the team.

“They’re fantastic kids, fantastic guys, just wonderful,” Tom Wheeler said.

“These boys play so well as a team and they’re not braggadocios at all,” Barker said. “They’re not beating their chests, and they’re very humble and very team-oriented.”

Some fans were very confident in URI’s chances in the tournament; Scott Beer had this message before the game even started: “I only have one bracket this year, and URI is the national champion.”

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Vendor: It’ll cost at least $3,750 to watch Patriots-Falcons in person

FOXBORO, Mass. (WPRI) — Seeing the New England Patriots make a run for the Vince Lombardi trophy is becoming business as usual for fans of the team, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less excited to root them on.

However, doing so in person won’t come cheap.

Ryan Kelley, sales manager for Boston-based Ace Ticket, said the cheapest ticket to get into the big game currently stands at $3,750.

That may seem like a lot to pay to watch a football game, but Kelley said it’s a lot more affordable than the last time the Patriots were in it.

“That Super Bowl against Seattle, tickets ballooned up to $10,000, $12,000 apiece,” he said. “So compared to that, they’re a fairly reasonable price.”

There’s no way of telling if the prices will go up or down from here, according to Kelley, so he said it might be in fans’ best interest to act sooner rather than later.

“If a price looks right and you’re comfortable paying it at that time, certainly go ahead and grab it because it’s hard to tell what’s going to happen from here,” Kelley explained.

Patriots Playoff Push: See and Submit Your Fan Photos »
Patriots Playoff Push: See and Submit Your Fan Photos »

Kelley said prices actually went down after the Dallas Cowboys were knocked out of the running.

The Patriots overpowered the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday night to advance to the Super Bowl. They’ll soon head to Houston to take on the NFC champion Atlanta Falcons.

For the seventh time in the Brady-Belichick era, fans went out to score AFC Championship gear after the big win.

“They played like they’re supposed to play, they did their job, and it made me feel good,” said Dave Pomarico of Foxboro, a lifelong Patriots fan.

Fans at Gillette Stadium on Monday did little to hide their glee that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision to suspend Tom Brady for the first four games of the season didn’t hurt the Patriots’ chances of bringing home another title.

“It shows it’s a complete failure,” said Dana Wilkins of North Attleboro. “I’m not surprised that they’re going to the Super Bowl.”

“We came back and showed them we can win no matter what,” added Diane Umile of Weymouth.

Watch the Patriots and the Falcons go head-to-head on Sunday, Feb. 5 on Fox Providence. Eyewitness News will be bringing you all the sights and sounds leading up to the big game with live reports from Yianni Kourakis and Kelly Sullivan in Houston.

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Local News, News, Providence, sports

New Englanders disappointed after Patriots loss

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PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — The screen printing business was set and ready, waiting for the Patriots to win the AFC Championship game so they could start spewing out T-shirts at a rate of about one-thousand per hour from their machine.

The moment didn’t come. Production manager Ray Delgado and his team at Mirror Image in Pawtucket put the machines to bed and went home after the Patriots lost to the Denver Broncos Sunday evening. They’ll ship the blank, navy blue T-shirts back to the supplier.

“It’s a damn shame,” Delgado said, explaining that the business gets a big boost in extra cash whenever the Patriots win championship games. “But you know, football can go either way.”

To say New England fans were disappointed would be an understatement.

“I’m extremely sad,” said Zach Smith from Burrillville. “I’ve never been this sad in my entire life. This is the worst day,” he said.

He and his friend Dan Mattera were waiting for the win at Snookers in Providence, ready to book a trip to the Super Bowl.

“We were going to San Francisco, we had tickets ready to go on our phone,” said Smith.

“It was a good game,” added Mattera. “But it was like, they gave you the hope and then they brought it down.”

Cinnamon Striplin from Wichita, KS proudly wore a Denver Broncos jersey surrounded by Patriots fans at Buffalo Wild Wings in Warwick.

“It’s a little weird and a little awkward,” she told me during the first half of the game. “But I’ll rep Broncos all day, every day. That’s my team, and I know we’re going to win.”

Striplin was right, much to the chagrin of Pats fans. New Englanders bounce back fast, though; all of the fans who talked to Eyewitness News said they were ready to cheer on Tom Brady and the team to victory next year.

“We got it, you know,” said Corey Ferschke from Smithfield, echoed by his friend Chris Keejan from Burrillville. “Next year, we’re going all the way.”

Blackstone Valley, High School, HS Football, Local News, News, sports, Top Video

North Smithfield forfeits remainder of football season

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NORTH SMITHFIELD, R.I. (WPRI) — The Northmen  won’t be playing Friday, after school officials had to make the tough decision to forfeit the rest of the varsity football season.

“We got to the point where we only have 12 players eligible,” said Principal Tim McGee. “Of those 12, there are several still fighting injuries.”

McGee said he notified students Friday of the decision to forfeit the rest of the season, which consisted of Friday’s game against undefeated Smithfield and the Thanksgiving Day game against Scituate.

“As you can imagine, many were disappointed,” McGee said. “I’m disappointed.”

McGee says there was low turnout for the team this year, and a lot of freshmen players. The team had 29 players on the roster at the beginning of the season.

Nineteen players were injured throughout the fall, with sprained ankles, bruised ribs, broken fingers and illnesses. Two players got concussions this season.

While some players were able to return from their injuries, only 12 were eligible for Friday’s game. It was technically enough to play, but not considering the condition of some of the players.

“You don’t want any student playing injured,” McGee said. “Me sending a kid out to do that…we have a team that hasn’t won a game this season and would be playing an undefeated team. It just doesn’t make sense.”

The Rhode Island Interscholastic League applauded North Smithfield officials Friday for paying attention to their players’ injuries and following through with concerns.

According to the RIIL, North Smithfield’s would-be competitor Smithfield will not play Friday night. Scituate, the planned Thanksgiving Day rival, does not have another game scheduled for the holiday, and it is unclear if another game will be scheduled.