Pawtucket Red Sox Stadium Bill Reflects the Apathy of RI

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Some are acting surprised that the RI House of Representatives is moving to pass a bill that will put state taxpayer money at risk in order to build a new stadium for the millionaire owners of the Pawtucket Red Sox.

But the writing has been on the wall for months. Ever since House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello said that he wouldn’t support a voter referendum on the issue, this was a done deal.

I’m sure through some form of tortured logic, Speaker Mattiello will argue that no taxpayer money is at risk. But we know that isn’t true.  

You’ll Pay For It

Even Governor Gina Raimondo said, rather bluntly last month, that the buck will stop with the state of Rhode Island. If all the revenue streams and schemes fail, the taxpayers are going to be left holding the bag here.

And I fully expect them to. If this was a profitable investment, countless private equity firms would be lining up to fund it. It’s not.

House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello is working on the least risky deal he can muster. But if it fails, we’ll all pay.

Let’s face it: baseball is a dying game.

Millennials don’t care about it. It’s a slow-paced game. Sometimes hours go by without an exciting play.

Some games take three-and-a-half hours. It’s not rare to see a 4-hour game.

Investing In A Dying Game

The facts back up my argument. Major League Baseball’s attendance is in freefall. It’s down 6.6-percent right now compared to last year, according to Stats LLC. There’s a good chance that, for the first time since 2003 that league-wide attendance will fall below 30,000 for the year.  

It doesn’t take the most intuitive person in the world to see why. The American Pastime is, at its essence, a boring game.

But the Pawtucket Red Sox owners have two major trump cards in their arsenal–nostalgia and apathy.

If the public opposition isn’t strong enough, the special interest groups will always win.

There’s talk about some sort of 38 Studios hangover. Rhode Islanders, we’re told, don’t want to make risky investments any more.

Don’t believe that. It’s not true.

Indecisive Rhode Island

The opposition to investment in the Pawtucket Red Stadium is just a loud minority.

Sure, most Rhode Islanders don’t want to spend taxpayer money to support a baseball team.

But they don’t want to see the team leave either. They have nostalgia for the old days when grandfatherly Ben Mondor owned the team, kept prices and concessions low, and gave away free tickets to games like they were penny candy.

They really don’t have strong feelings either way, though. (They don’t have strong feelings about anything, except for maybe knowing the right people.) That’s my sense.

The leaders of the House of Representatives know all this. They’re smart political strategists. To their credit, at least they’re trying to expose the taxpayers to as little risk as possible.

Where Real Blame Lies

So when they have to make a decision, and they realize that Rhode Islanders are apathetic and indecisive they’re going to pander to the powerful, politically connected millionaires that own the team.

This whole process has been entirely predictable.

Nothing is ever going to change until Rhode Islanders start getting passionate about state and local government.

So don’t blame our leaders like Mattiello. Blame your neighbors. Blame yourself.

(That’s not easy or fun though. I get it.)

Russell Moore
Russell J. Moore is the publisher and founder of rirelevant.com. He’s been writing about Rhode Island since 2005. You should definitely follow him on twitter @russmoore713. If you want to send him email, you can send it to russmoore713@gmail.com
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1 COMMENT

  1. I read comments on every site I can about this and have been involved since it started. In answer to one story a couple of week ago, the comments started to flow. It was amazing how many people didn’t know about this.
    How could they not know? It’s been a thorn in our side for over 3 yrs. Didn’t they know how the owners were chased out of Providence? It was all over the news. There are groups, petitions were sent out, we called our senators/reps, we had them coming to the so-called listening tours and yes, the politicians were actually listening.
    Apathy or plain stupidity – call it what you will. If they would get off their cell phones and listen to people talk, read a paper, watch the news on their 60 inch TVs, do you think it would sink in? People who have left RI know more about than those who stayed behind.
    I agree – baseball is a long, boring game. To each his own, I guess. My grown sons used to play street baseball but when it came to joining a team, it was always something that had action – basketball, soccer -sports that actually had movement, had people standing up, yelling at the coaches, the refs and constant cheering & groaning. I stay involved – it’s my money these clowns want to play with. We’ve done our homework on stadiums, what they cost the taxpayers, attendance figures, how promises of areas being built up around stadiums rarely happens. San Diego is still on the hook for $15 million a year – that’s a Lucchino project. Homestead, Fla. has an empty, unused stadium – I don’t think any game was ever played there. It’s never been maintained.
    This crowd waltzes in, looking for a handout when their total worth is more than our state budget and we’re supposed to build them a stadium for a team that they’ll sell a few yrs. down the road, based on not the team, but that shiny, new stadium. It seems these stadiums have a life-span of 20 yrs. because every 20 yrs., someone wants to ‘replace’ that old stadium with a new one and, out of the goodness of our hearts, give whatever team exactly what it wants – our money. In this state (and too many others), our politicians aren’t listening or representing us. It’s all about them, their connections and who benefits the most.

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