Pawtucket representatives: Rep. Coughlin strikes out with his doomsday scenarios

Pawtucket representatives: Rep. Coughlin strikes out with his doomsday scenarios

Like the ‘Mighty Casey’ from Ernest Thayer’s epic baseball poem “Casey At The Bat,” our colleague Rep. David Coughlin has mightily struck out with his Feb. 6 opinion piece.

Mr. Coughlin paints an erroneous picture regarding the proposed new Ballpark at Slater Mill and in doing so, does a grave disservice to his city, his constituents and the people of Rhode Island.

Strike one: Mr. Coughlin erroneously states the bonds to be issued for the new ballpark at Slater Mill are “moral obligation bonds.” He uses this term to conjure up the negativity associated with the ill-fated 38 Studios project. Using his terms, we say balderdash, Mr. Coughlin. He knows very well that these are not “moral obligation bonds.” Unlike 38 Studios, which was a start-up company with zero revenues, the ballpark bonds are backed by real state revenues. This year alone, over $2 million in revenue was derived solely from the income and sales taxes generated by the team and its visitors. In the 44-year history of Triple A baseball in Pawtucket, there have always been revenues to meet all obligations of the state, city and the lead tenant, the Pawtucket Red Sox Baseball Club. To insinuate that after 44 years these revenues will miraculously disappear is simply being politically disingenuous.

Strike two: Mr. Coughlin’s statement that the city could default on their payments, leaving the state’s taxpayers on the hook, is more balderdash. First, the new Senate bill moving $250,000 of naming rights revenues and $50,000 of new ticket premium taxes to the city has solidified the financial footing of the city substantially. Second, with the required 50,000 square feet of new ballpark-related development, the city’s financial gap becomes infinitesimal. The resulting outstanding annual balance would be one quarter of one percent of the city’s $124 million annual budget. And this is before a single additional development project is included. Since the announcement of the Ballpark at Slater Mill, there has been interest in the vacant Tidewater site, the vacant Division Street site, a proposed new hotel and a performing arts center. The idea that the city cannot make its obligation is simply more gobbledygook from Mr. Coughlin.

Strike three: Mr. Coughlin states he will not subsidize the PawSox owners and force state budget cuts. Unfortunately he misses one of the very reasons why we need the ballpark: the ballpark brings in more revenue to the state than it costs to build.

Losing the ballpark to another state would actually cost the state money. This is the exact opposite of his stated premise that it hurts the budget. In fiscal year 2017, the sales revenue and sales tax revenue from the ballpark was over $2 million. The entire cost of the state investment to build the ballpark is $1.4 million annually. These parks have proven to be highly successful in the type of urban setting being proposed in Pawtucket.

While Mr. Coughlin has struck out with his doomsday scenarios, the fact is this project is a home run for Rhode Island and absolutely necessary for the future of our hometown Pawtucket.

Let us put this in simple terms: The people of Rhode Island are being asked to invest $1.40 per person, per year, for 30 years. The return on that investment is a brand new $83 million publicly-owned ballpark, we keep our beloved PawSox here for 30 more years, and we pay back the people of Rhode Island $2 or more per year. The alternative is we invest nothing, have the team leave, we have no new ballpark and we lose over $2 million annually in state revenues.

We can continue to be politically afraid and dig ourselves a deeper hole, or we can hit a home run.

It’s time to step up to the plate for a better Rhode Island and leave our political timidity behind.

State Representatives

Mary Messier – District 62

Raymond Johnston – 
District 61

Jean Philippe Barros – District 59

Carlos Tobon – District 58