There's an interesting article by Dan Barry in today's New York Times, about plans by the new owners of the Pawtucket Red Sox to pull the team from Pawtucket and their intention to build a new stadium on the Providence waterfront, in the I-195 redevelopment area.
As Barry points out, baseball is a business and the new owners will naturally do what they can to maximize the franchise's revenue and profits. From the standpoint of Providence, Pawtucket and the state, however, the move will require several major decisions regarding publicly owned land.
It's hard to imagine how a baseball stadium — and parking — fits into the much-touted "knowledge district" promised with the redevelopment of the I-195 parcel. The site is only 22 acres — minus stadium and parking, that doesn't seem to leave a lot of footprint for knowledge. There is some good recent work on the failure of publicly financed stadiums to generate real dividends for the community, and we all remember the state's last attempt to subsidize business development around the Red Sox...
The expectation seems to be that the state will simply give away the I-195 land for the stadium — and who knows what other tax subsidies, etc. Let's hope that the city and state stay focused on the public interest in rededeveloping the I-195 corridor, rather than bowing to the interests of powerful developers.
There may be no stopping the Pawsox from leaving Pawtucket -- but if so, the state should be putting its resources into making sure that the McCoy Stadium site is used well or redeveloped, rather than subsidizing a low-value, seasonal use of Providence's precious waterfront.