The ghost of 38 Studios haunts Pawtucket
The computer game company run by former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling famously was awarded up to $75 million in loan guarantees from the state of Rhode Island. The company failed spectacularly in 2012, and taxpayers were on the hook for millions.
Of course, Pawtucket Mayor Don Grebien had nothing to do with that. But people still talk about the 38 Studios debacle, years later. The aversion in Rhode Island politics to anything even remotely resembling a corporate handout helped sink Grebien’s dreams to keep the Pawtucket Red Sox in town.
PawSox executives ended the speculation about their future today by signing a deal in Worcester. They want a new stadium, and they’ll get one.
This 10,000-seat ballpark will cost nearly $90 million, and is slated to go up in time for the 2021 season. To pull it off, Worcester would issue $100.8 million in bonds. About $30 million would be covered by the team’s rent payments of roughly $1 million a year over 30 years. The rest largely would be funded by revenue from a special taxation district that would be set up to include the ballpark and a development next door — two hotels, restaurants, apartments, shops, maybe offices. Boston developer Denis Dowdle will shepherd that part.
The PawSox will also contribute another $6 million while the Baker administration will kick in $32.5 million for infrastructure work and $2.5 million for housing tax credits.
Grebien also wanted a ballpark-related taxation district in Pawtucket. But there’s a key difference. The city of Worcester, with its strong credit rating, would guarantee these bonds, pledging to cover any shortfall. Conservative estimates show the new taxes would easily exceed the nearly $3 million in annual debt payments — but you never know for sure.
In Rhode Island, the team wanted a stadium bill that would be backstopped by the state, primarily to control the borrowing costs. But that was a no-go for House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello. The bill the General Assembly ended up passing in June didn’t include the guarantee, and the PawSox brass realized they might be soon packing their bags.