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As Pawtucket soccer stadium costs soar, R.I. considers more public funding

The developer said it’s putting up more money to fill the gap and had cut stadium-related costs. The city and the developer blame “unprecedented cost inflation.”

A rendering of the Tidewater Landing project from 2019.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

PROVIDENCE — The Tidewater Landing soccer stadium project in Pawtucket is going to be a lot more expensive than planned — and the state is considering a request from the city and the developer to provide $30 million more in funding, despite previous assurances to the contrary.

The city of Pawtucket and the developer, Fortuitous Partners, announced on Friday that costs to build the USL Championship stadium on the banks of the Seekonk River had increased by about $40 million. That’s a nearly 50 percent increase, from a budget of $83 million to what’s now expected to be $124 million. The city and the developer blame “unprecedented cost inflation.”

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The developer said it’s putting up more money to fill the gap and had cut stadium-related costs. But along with the city, it is also asking the state for more public funding for the project, according to a member of the state Commerce Corporation. A committee of the public body met Tuesday behind closed doors for about 40 minutes in Providence to hear about a half-dozen options for addressing the gap – at least some of which involve more public funding, said Michael McNally, who chairs the investment committee.

The financial gap, McNally said, is “large.”

The potential for more public funding for the project comes more than a year after the original financing deal was announced with the assurance that, in the words of Rhode Island Commerce, “the public parties will not be required to increase incentive amounts as a result of cost overruns.”

“Regardless of who said what before, if it’s a good investment for the taxpayer, we’ll do it. If it’s not, we won’t. It’s that simple,” McNally said after Tuesday’s meeting of the investment committee.

The investment committee didn’t take a vote Tuesday, and the full board of Commerce RI, which Governor Dan McKee chairs, is also not expected to vote when it meets Wednesday, although they’re also expected to meet in private to discuss options.

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In addition to the stadium itself, the first phase of the project is expected to include riverfront amenities, 435 housing units, and commercial, restaurant and retail space.

McNally said he couldn’t get into specifics about what options they were considering, and the developer declined to comment after Tuesday’s meeting.

Under the deal announced in February 2021, the state and city would provide $36.2 million in tax increment financing, a deal known as a “TIF.” Under that deal, the public partners would go out for a bond to fund the public infrastructure around the project, although not the stadium itself. The $36.2 million would be paid back by dedicated tax revenues from the project. The state Commerce Corporation also approved a $10 million tax credit in the form of sales and use taxes related to construction materials.

According to testimony prepared by Dylan Zelazo, the city of Pawtucket’s director of administration, the city and the developer are proposing that the state provide $30 million more in funding through tax increment financing, bringing the state’s share from $27 million to $57 million.

Zelazo’s testimony emphasized that the project would provide an estimated 2,500 direct and indirect construction jobs and 1,200 direct, ongoing jobs, and a $130 million boost annually to the state’s economy.

The project is currently under construction. The project would fill a sporting gap in Pawtucket after the departure of the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox for Worcester.

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“With the additional funds put in by the developer, and through modifications to the TIF, we can get to a place where we can make sure this transformational project for our city happens,” Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien said Friday.

This article has been updated with additional information from the city of Pawtucket.


Brian Amaral can be reached at brian.amaral@globe.com. Follow him @bamaral44.