Rhode Island FC Stadium Funding Hits Snag
This is not the news that Rhode Island FC fans wanted to read about.
Work on the new 10,000-seat soccer stadium at Tidewater Landing in downtown Pawtucket has begun, with $25 million in private funding propelling the current construction along. However, public funding in the form of $27 million in bonds has been held up by the city of Pawtucket due to what city officials say are “uncertain financial conditions” according to WPRI.com who first reported the news.
“The city’s top priority has always been protecting taxpayers,” Grace Voll, spokeswoman for Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien wrote Wednesday. “Given the market challenges of the last year, including a global pandemic, rising interest rates, tighter market conditions, and a looming banking crisis, the state financing and private debt components of the capital stack have not made fiscal sense to close to the date,”
Voll also confirmed that the bonds were expected to be released in February. It is believed that the decision may be related to the Federal Reserve’s decision to raise short-term interest rates by 25 basis points.
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Public funding of stadium projects has been controversial and was a significant factor in the former Pawtucket Red Sox’s decision to leave the city in 2018. They moved to Worcester, where a $159 million baseball stadium was constructed with public funds.
The Tidewater Landing project is significantly larger, with apartments, shops, parking, river walk, and pedestrian bridge included alongside the stadium expected to drive costs perhaps as high as $400 million, much of it coming from private sources. It is the most significant infrastructure investment in Pawtucket’s history and is expected to benefit from the new MBTA commuter rail station built in Pawtucket at a cost of $63 million.
Fortuitous Partners, the owners of the team, and the stadium are presently hard at work raising $50 million in private capital, which is expected to be split evenly between RIFC and Tidewater Landing. Pawtucket and the state of Rhode Island are requiring Fortuitous Partners to close on their debt financing in order to proceed with public funding.
A spokesperson from Fortuitous also sent NBC 10 a statement stressing that work on the stadium is advancing.
"Work on the stadium is advancing and Rhode Island FC continues to hire and create jobs in Rhode Island,” the statement read. “We have invested over $23 million of private capital into initial developments before any public funds have been made available. Like other developers across the world, we are managing through a global banking crisis and hope to close on final financing in the near future. Apart from the development, the Rhode Island FC team is focused on building a winning soccer club from the pitch up for the 2024 season."
A previous snag in funding last year was alleviated by a shift in funding approved in the state house, with Governor Dan McKee casting the tie-breaking vote.
“While there currently are market challenges impacting projects across the nation, our team continues to meet regularly with the city and the developer to continue advancing this project and navigate those challenges,” his spokesman, Matt Sheaff said in an email sent to the Providence Journal.
Pawtucket city officials reiterated that construction is ongoing and privately funded, with an additional $10 million in pandemic-related American Rescue Plan Act funds shoring up any potential shortfalls. Team and city officials continue to express their optimism that the stadium project will hit its goal of opening by the start of the next USL Championship season in March 2024.
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