We Lost the Ballgame
Okay, a disclaimer here. I’m not the most intense baseball fan in New England. Don’t get me wrong, I adore the game and it’s rich history in my life, but I can’t name you stats and I forget players I should remember in a haze of years of disappointment and then elation.
My relationship with the Pawtucket Red Sox had deteriorated in the past two years, mostly over the threats they were making regarding leaving the state after 47 years, but in my youth and well into my adult years, I was fortunate enough to see some amazing baseball at McCoy Stadium. From the young startups that would become legends, to the major players sent down for rehab that you’d get to really see up close, and who could forget the longest recorded baseball game (June 23, 1981…33 innings…Sox beat Rochester Red Wings 3-2) right in Pawtucket. The Bucket. Poor Pawtucket. Never got the respect location wise. And McCoy could be a desolate destination. The surrounding area of ballpark was kind of bleak and underdeveloped.
According to the organization’s owner leadership (Lucky Larry Lucchino and Mike Tamburro) the attendance was declining at the facility and either major rehaul of the existing park or relocation to either another part of Pawtucket (the Apex area?) or Providence was needed.
But they couldn’t afford it without major state funding? Rhode Islanders were a bit incredulous of that proposal. Weren’t these guys loaded? In fact, in documents filed with the state back in 2016, the Pawsox listed their total assets at just $18,187,658. Total liabilities, $7,020,632; Members’ equity: $11,167,026 leaving a net equity of 11.2 million. Not really enough money to finance a professional sports facility let alone sustain dips in revenue.
The critics shouted, “Corporate welfare!!”. They were still bitter about Curt Schilling’s failed $75 million dollar 38 Studio’s venture and despite the fact that it was like comparing apples to oranges, the fact that Schilling was a baseball player seemed to somehow seem relevant. The detractors also enjoyed pointing out that municipal backed sports facility deals NEVER brought anywhere near the promised revenues, across the nation.
But what about the intangibles? Is it really all about profits derived at the facility itself? How much does our state capitol building (one of the most beautiful examples in the country) cost to maintain? We fund it without question because it is a symbol of Rhode Island pride and identity. What about the construction jobs that would have been generated? If the facility was built and located correctly, think of the ancillary tourist dollars it would have generated for hotels, restaurants and other supporting businesses. And how many AAA baseball teams are there? We will never see another team opportunity like this without spending even bigger dollars to lure them.
So that’s it. We got nothing. Pawtucket is going to have a big deteriorating hole left behind. Providence will continue to give tax subsidies to build more college and university facilities and building overpriced housing projects to attract and gentrify the city. Ever been to New Haven? It's got no city vibe at all.
Someone said that the Pawsox were like a beautiful, desirable woman waiting for a ring and one day just decided to move on to find someone that could provide a commitment. We really lost the ballgame on this one.
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