I see the relocation of the Paw Sox differently than many Rhode Islanders; in fact, I see this “business relocation” as an opportunity for Rhode Island business and political Leaders to identify and pursue a superior alternative for Pawtucket. As a Full Time REALTOR® with years of experience in commercial real estate, I believe that McCoy Stadium could be a venue for multiple sports and not remain simply a baseball field.
My opinion is based on the following observations:
- Public funding of sports venues, aka corporate welfare, is a scam. I believe it is acceptable for businesses to be lured by government entities with tax stabilization plans and/or other incentives. However, if their business model or plan, cannot convince private sector lenders to finance their proposed business venture/expansion, perhaps it is flawed, or management/ownership is not up to the task.
- The Paw Sox owners demonstrated that they don’t have confidence in their business model without $38 million in government assistance. As a result, they made a business decision in which the State of Massachusetts will provide $32.5 million and the city has agreed to guarantee the construction debt, meaning it will assure bondholders it can cover any shortfalls if necessary. The team will pay the Landlord, the City of Worcester, “rent” which comes from revenues. The State of Rhode Island had a similar arrangement with 38 Studios which didn’t work out well for the tax payers. This arrangement will increase the bonded indebtedness of the City of Worcester.
- R.I. has a lot to offer, without giving money away so let’s approach this with some self-confidence and swagger. R.I. political and business leaders should have no problem getting a replacement, perhaps one who can do it with private-sector funding like Bob Kraft did in Foxboro. It may take time, but we CAN do it – and we’ll be better off for years to come.
In addition, I would like to share that the Rhode Island Association of REALTORS® (RIAR) has for the past two years participated in MIPIM (www.MIPIM.com), the largest real estate conference in the world. RIAR has chosen to invest in sending representatives, including yours truly, to explore MIPIM as a viable platform to bring exposure to real estate opportunities for our members, and to broadcast the opportunities Rhode Island has to offer international investors, developers, and businesses. This conference is attended by over 25,000 real estate professionals from around the world. Only 248 of them are from the United States so there is significant upside opportunity. There are over 5,000 investors looking for investment opportunities, whether as partners or lenders. In fact, our colleagues in San Diego established a relationship with an individual lender that yielded development in excess of $100 million in the greater San Diego area. It took a couple years from start to finish but funding was identified and the deal consummated when there were no stateside lenders who would “step-to-the-plate”.
Rhode Island could benefit greatly from such exposure and relationship-building. Our cost of living is 20 to30 percent lower than neighboring states, the fiscal health of Rhode Island is superior to Connecticut, we are an hour from Boston and a few hours to New York City. We also have the internationally recognized City by the Sea. Newport as a gem that is too often overlooked. Businesses can choose from marine, air, rail or surface transportation for their materials. Our extensive highway network puts businesses located here within a short drive to the best universities in the world- universities which churn out graduates by the tens of thousands every year, providing a tremendous resource for well-educated employees. Rhode Island offers a great quality of life that is valued by the hundreds of thousands of tourists who visit us.
Rhode Island has all of this to offer and most of our inhabitants are completely oblivious to these assets, so how can we expect non-Rhode Islanders to know about us and the opportunities our state provides. That is why we need to trumpet our assets to the rest of the world. If you look at a map of the United States, it is hard to find Little Rhody even if you know where to look. So, if you are not from here, don’t know where to look, and don’t even know about us, we will be overlooked by our larger neighbors, Boston and NYC.
RIAR has taken the initiative and non-REALTORS® will benefit from our leadership on this issue. Though I’ve only attended MIPIM two times, I have established relationships that could be productive for RIAR members and the State of Rhode Island. We are just one organization and while we will continue our outreach, the State of Rhode Island could use others to trumpet our assets.
The relocation of the Paw Sox IS an opportunity for Rhode Island. We need to approach it like professionals. This is NOT a debilitating blow and we should not act like it is. We need to think back to when the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl over the Atlanta Falcons. The Patriots were down 21-3 at the half, and then 28-3 at the start of the second half. They did NOT let that overwhelm them. Players and coaches mentally and physically battled back to win. They “did their job” because they are professionals. Perhaps Rhode Island business and political leaders should look at this as an opportunity to show that we are professionals and we can get the job done. So, let this be a “call to arms” to business and political Leaders in the great State of Rhode Island to band together and do our job to market our great state.