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Mattiello says he supports new PawSox stadium financing plan

FILE PHOTO -- House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello (WJAR)

House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello is supporting a new ballpark financing plan for the Pawtucket Red Sox.

Mattiello on Tuesday told NBC 10 News the plan wouldn’t put taxpayers on the hook should the team decide to leave the city.

“Under this proposal, the PawSox can stay and the Rhode Island taxpayer does not have to worry about the downside,” Mattiello, a Democrat who represents Cranston, said. “There is no legal responsibility whatsoever.”

The speaker said he has been reluctant to move forward with prior versions of the deal because of the risk to taxpayers.

“The Rhode Island taxpayer will have absolutely no liability on the debt associated with the PawSox,” Mattiello said.

Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien shared similar sentiments.

“If anything should happen, it falls onto the bond holders, which we know isn’t going to happen,” said Grebien, adding that while project costs are likely to rise without the state backing the debt, he believes it is a step in the right direction.

“I think this keeps them here. I think this gives them what they need,” Grebien said. “It makes them whole and there are no changes for them, per say.”

The new plan was developed by Mattiello's staff, in talks with the team. It has new financing language, which is expected to be released soon, and involves building a new stadium on the old APEX plan off Route 95.

In a press release, Mattiello also noted that bonds issued by the Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency would be paid back from funds generated in the district, including the team’s lease payment. While Mattiello said the debt will be more expensive without the state’s backing, it is a “trade-off” to remove taxpayer risk.

“This concept still needs to be put through its paces starting with a House Finance Committee hearing,” Mattiello said. “There will be plenty of opportunities for feedback.”

A spokesman for the PawSox issued a statement to NBC 10 Tuesday night, noting that he was “somewhat surprised” by the new developments.

“While we were shown a draft over this holiday weekend, we have yet to see the legislation posted today,” the spokesman noted. “We will study the proposed legislation in detail when we receive it, to assess the viability and appeal of what we believe is a whole new departure.”

Meanwhile, many Rhode Islanders told NBC 10 they hope everyone can agree on something so the PawSox can stay.

“It’s big money,” said long-time PawSox fan Robert Bouchard. “That’s what it’s all about. I definitely would like to see them stay. It’d be a shame to see them go to another state.”

The House Finance Committee is scheduled to consider the plan Thursday at 5:30 p.m.

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