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Brown University Stance Raises New Questions on PawSox Stadium

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The potential cost of buying Brown University-owned land for a PawSox stadium is raising questions about the feasibility of the project, a team...

The potential cost of buying Brown University-owned land for a PawSox stadium is raising questions about the feasibility of the project, a team spokeswoman said Thursday.

PawSox spokeswoman Patti Doyle said the team still hopes to reach a renegotiated agreement to build a 10,000-seat ballpark on part of the former I-195 land in Providence.

But Doyle acknowledged that the cost of buying the part of the land owned by Brown -- expected to top $10 million -- is leading to questions of "Is this still workable? Is this something we can come to terms with?"

Among elected officials, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello has been one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the proposed PawSox stadium. Through his spokesman, Mattiello said, “I have said that unless it’s a good deal for the taxpayers, I am not inclined to move forward with a stadium deal. It appears that the costs for a potential park are increasing, so I would say it is less likely that a deal can be reached."

Brown University said it will not be taking a stance on the ballpark, and does not expect it to be a regular venue for student athletics or an enhancement of campus life.

"The decision of whether to build a stadium on the I-195 land belongs to the City, State, and, most of all, to the residents of Rhode Island," the university said in a statement distributed by Cass Cliatt, vice president for communication. "Brown has not and will not take a position on the proposed site or the financial structure of a deal with the City and the State."

"If the City, State and people of Rhode Island determine that a stadium is desirable," the university continued, "Brown will be supportive, and would be willing to sell any of our land that is needed at a fair price that fully compensates Brown for its significant investment in the real estate and associated programmatic requirements for our School of Professional Studies and Office of Admission at 200 Dyer Street. It is our responsibility to our community to ensure an equitable outcome for any transfer of the land. If the stadium is built, we do not see it as becoming a regular venue for Brown athletics or as providing tangible benefits for other campus life activities."

Doyle said the team remains focused on trying to achieve a renegotiated ballpark agreement with the state.

"We understand and respect Brown's position and actually agree with them that concerns and questions from the city, its residents, and of course the university, need to be answered and addressed, and we hope we have the opportunity to do that," Doyle said.

"We just received that information yesterday," Doyle said, when asked if the cost of the land owned by Brown would effectively block the ballpark. "It's part of the information we now have to assimilate, and put pen to paper and assess."

Doyle declined to specify how the team would respond if its preferred site on the former I-195 land falls through, and whether the PawSox would remain at McCoy Stadium, consider the alternative site of Victory Place in Providence, or do something else.

A majority owner of the PawSox, Jim Skeffington, had expressed hope that Brown's football team would play at a new Providence ballpark. Skeffington died unexpectedly in May.

Regarding the I-195 location, Doyle said, "We believe in that site. We believe in the transformative qualities of a ballpark well-located in downtown, and think there would be significant benefit to locating a ballpark right along the Providence River and so close to so many neighborhoods."

The PawSox' Providence ballpark proposal has attracted a mostly negative public reaction since the team unveiled an initial request for $120 million in public subsidies over 30 years, and an exemption from Providence property taxes.

Governor Gina Raimondo has reacted coolly to proposed ballpark in recent months, cautioning that many steps need to happen become it could become a reality.

This story has been updated.

A rendering of the proposed PawSox' ballpark.
A rendering of the proposed PawSox' ballpark.