WARWICK — Governor Dan McKee said Thursday he remains optimistic about the Tidewater Landing soccer stadium project in Pawtucket, even after news that Pawtucket had not yet gone out for financing on a big chunk of the public’s support for it.
“I have a lot of faith it’s going to happen,” McKee said in an exclusive interview with The Boston Globe at Rhode Island T.F. Green International Airport. “Timing may be a consideration under the current financial conditions, but I’m very optimistic the project will go forward.”
Pawtucket made waves on Wednesday when it announced that it had not yet made sense to close on the state financing and private debt for the project because of economic conditions including rising interest rates and a looming banking crisis. The state authorized the city of Pawtucket’s redevelopment agency to go out for millions in bonds as a large chunk of the public’s funding for the project being developed by Fortuitous Partners. City officials had originally said the bonds would go out months ago.
McKee said Thursday he spoke to Fortuitous Partners principal Brett Johnson earlier in the day. Asked if there was additional state money that could go toward it, McKee said no, and that Johnson hasn’t asked.
“We’ve obligated the dollars that we’re going to obligate,” McKee said.
Documents obtained by The Boston Globe showed that Johnson was still raising equity, in part for the stadium, as recently as February, months after the ceremonial groundbreaking for the stadium in August.
Rhode Island FC aims to play in the 2024 season of the USL Championship, the second tier of American men’s soccer. The team has hired a coach, a president, and other staff, and foundation work is taking place on the site.
“Like any startup venture, this project is in a perpetual investor raise,” Mike Raia, a Fortuitous spokesman, said Wednesday. “The developer has had sufficient funds available to move forward with development and has invested nearly $25 million to date to begin construction of the stadium.”
Over the summer, the state Commerce Corporation shifted the vast majority of the public’s support for the overall project, which is supposed to also include housing, commercial, and retail development, to the stadium itself, after the developer ran into major cost inflation. The stadium was last pegged to cost $124 million, of which the public would finance $45.5 million.
McKee cast the tie breaking vote in favor; critics at the time now say that these economic headwinds were entirely predictable.
McKee, though, said Thursday: “The most important thing to understand is that it’s a good project.”