Governor Gina Raimondo said Tuesday she's unsure if the Pawtucket Red Sox proposal to move to Providence will be decided -- as the team's ownership hopes -- before the end of the General Assembly session.
“I don’t know and I don’t think we should rush it," Raimondo said during an impromptu news conference following an unrelated event in Warwick. "It’s too important. It’s too important for the people of Rhode Island. We have to get it right. If we can get it done in a couple of weeks, fine, but it’s more important to me that we get it done right and take care of the taxpayers than we get it done quickly.”
A proposal unveiled by the PawSox in late April sought $120 million in taxpayer-backed state lease payments, along with an exemption on Providence property taxes, over 30 years. The team said it hoped for a resolution of the pitch before the end of the legislative session, which usually occurs by late June.
PawSox President Jim Skeffington has since said the team is now interesting in buying the land for its envisioned ballpark on the former I-195 land by the Providence River. The team has emphasized its view that a new ballpark in Providence would be an economic catalyst.
Raimondo, who met with PawSox ownership last Thursday, suggested the team has not modified its initial proposal in other ways. "We're in an ongoing negotiation," the governor said. "I've been very clear with them that their initial proposal was not in the ballpark of anything we would consider. And they've got to do a lot more work and come back to the table with something that's affordable and fair to the people of Rhode Island. Purchasing the land is one element, but it's got to be a lot more than that."
Raimondo said the next step is "constant, ongoing negotiations and discussions."
"We've had constructive dialogue," the governor told reporters. "We're at the table. They're open-minded. They're taking our suggestions, so we just have to work through it."
Raimondo said the PawSox proposal should be considered in terms of its economic value to the state. "Whatever that is, that's what we can afford," she said.
Speaking separately, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said he thinks it's possible the PawSox' proposal could be decided before the legislature ends its session. "It's a short time frame and I've indicated to them that if they want to do that, we need movement that serves the public interest very soon, within the next couple of weeks," Mattiello said.
Mattiello said he wants to create a transparent process around the PawSox proposal.
The speaker has hired Smith College sports-economist Andrew Zimbalist as a $225-an-hour consultant and said he expects his office to be in frequent contact with Zimbalist over the next two weeks.
"Let's inform the public as much as we can, as soon as we can," Mattielllo added. "If the public is going to invest in keeping the PawSox in the state of Rhode Island, the public is going to be part of the dialogue and the discourse, and will help us determine if that should be. Ultimately, we want to do what the public wants us to do, and I think, ultimately, the public wants the PawSox to stay in Rhode Island."