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12/7/2017 Senate Finance Committee issues report, presents revised legislation
STATE HOUSE, Providence – At its eighth meeting on the Ballpark at Slater Mill proposal, the Senate Finance Committee today issued a report on the proposed public-private partnership with the Pawtucket Red Sox and brought forward revised legislation. The committee will not vote on the revised legislation until the new legislative session begins next month.
“The legislation responds to the concerns raised during the committee process. It strengthens what was already a good deal for the city and the state, and provides a mutually beneficial path forward to keep the PawSox in Pawtucket,” said Finance Committee Chairman William J. Conley, Jr. (D – Dist. 18, East Providence, Pawtucket).
“The committee engaged in a vigorous review of this proposal, and now more than ever I believe it is a good deal for the city and the state. Even under the most conservative estimates, the public revenue generated by the PawSox for the state would fully account for the state’s debt service, meaning the stadium pays for itself. This revised legislation enables the continuation of the partnership that exists today at McCoy Stadium in a new and better located ballpark that will jumpstart development in downtown Pawtucket.
“Throughout this process,” he continued, “the Senate Finance Committee has been committed not only to being thorough, but also to being as open and transparent as possible. In that spirit, the legislation brought forward today was not voted upon, but made available for the public to review prior to our consideration of the bill next month.”
The revised legislation is posted on the General Assembly website and on the web portal established by the committee specific to the committee hearing process,
The committee has amended the legislation as follows:
  • Naming Rights: Based on the fact that the Pawtucket’s redevelopment agency will be the owner of the new ballpark and the determination that Pawtucket will experience a gap between new revenue and its annual debt obligation until sufficient ancillary development has taken place, S-0989 was amended to direct 50 percent of the ballpark naming rights revenue to the City of Pawtucket to assist with its annual debt service payment. This revenue is estimated to be $250,000.
  • Ticket Pricing: Based on the determination that Pawtucket will experience a gap between new revenue and its annual debt obligation until sufficient ancillary development has taken place, S-0989 was amended to reflect the transfer of the premium ticket surcharge revenue from the state to the city. The bill clarifies the definition of a “ticket” and was amended to include language memorializing the team’s commitment not to raise ticket prices for five years.
  • 50K sq. ft. Ancillary Development: The legislation requires any future lease to include a provision that the team develop a minimum of 50,000 sq. ft. of real estate contemporaneously with the construction of the ballpark.
  • Maintenance and Capital Improvement: S-0989 was amended so that any future lease must contain a requirement that the team be responsible for the daily, operational maintenance of the ballpark and its costs. The lease must also explicitly make clear that the state is not responsible for operational maintenance. The lease shall require that the team be responsible for a minimum 50 percent of annual capital expenditures and that the city, state, and team must contribute a minimum of $150,000 in total per year into a capital expenditure fund to finance capital expenditures. The parties will be required to development a multi-year capital improvement plan detailing expected, future capital projects and outlays. No capital expenditure funds shall be used for operational maintenance.
  • Construction Costs: The $12.0 million of equity pledged by team owners is required by the legislation to be the first funds expended towards the construction costs of the new ballpark. In the event that land acquisition and ballpark construction costs come in less than $83.0 million, the savings shall be distributed on a pro-rata basis to the team, city, and state at a rate of 46.5 percent, 32.4 percent, and 21.1 percent respectively. Lastly, any construction cost overruns that exist will be paid by the team.
  • Public Park: The bill memorializes the commitment by the parties of making the new ballpark available as a public park facility. The bill requires the lease to contain a provision directing the city to provide planning and operational assistance on public park aspects of the park. The lease must also specify that the facility will be operated year-round in and around the ballpark, separate and apart from the ballpark’s baseball-related uses, in order to create public recreational, social, and communal benefits.
  • Green Design & RIIB Financing: S-0989 was amended to encourage the use of energy efficient and sustainable design, construction, and operations at the new ballpark. It encourages the use of financing programs available through the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank, including, to the extent practicable, the State Revolving Funds and the Efficient Buildings Fund, which provide low cost financing for eligible renewable and energy efficiency, stormwater abatement, water conservation, and other sustainable infrastructure projects.
  • Fair Labor Standards Act Compliance: The legislation was amended to affirm the requirement that the team comply with fair labor standards. Employers associated with the business of the ballpark, including the team, would be required to adhere to state and federal Fair Labor Standards practices, including provisions that prevent labor misclassification by incorrectly designating workers as “independent contractors.”
  • Compliance with Public Corporation Debt Management Act: The legislation was amended to better conform to the requirements of the State’s Public Corporation Debt Management Act, or “Kushner Act.” The Budget Office’s fiscal note indicated that the bill as originally written did not meet these requirements. The statute requires that financing leases to which the state is a party must be authorized by the General Assembly through resolution. The resolution must include the maximum possible obligation of the state. The original language only listed the value of the principal to be borrowed and not the cost of issuance and total debt service. The amended language more clearly identifies the maximums as $41.0 million, $26.0 million, and $18.0 million for the Series A, B, and C bonds respectively.
The bill also requires that the bonds must be spent on qualifying purposes within five years of the date of issue, and that binding commitment shall be made to spend at least 10 percent of the proceeds within ten months of issuance. If project proceeds are not spent within five years, then unused proceeds must be used to pay back bonds within 90 days.
  • Lease Conditions: The lease is required to be for 30 years and must be reviewed and approved by the State Properties Commission prior to the issuance of bonds.
Eminent Domain: Based on the concerns expressed during public testimony and a subsequent determination that the need for this expansion was overstated, S-0990 was amended to eliminate the expansion of eminent domain powers under the Redevelopment Act and to restore the definition of “blighted and substandard” throughout the bill.

For more information, contact:
Greg Pare, Press Secretary for the Senate
State House Room 314
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 276-5558