Another Angle (or Silver Lining) in the Loss of the PawSox


There’s another aspect of the Worcester’s PawSox gain that Rhode Islanders haven’t spent much time discussing, and it is visible in the reporting of Ethan Epstein in The Weekly Standard (emphasis added):

But the PawSox owners announced that the next two years they play at McCoy will be their last. Roughly three years ago, they announced their plans to vacate McCoy. Pawtucket, Providence, and Worcester jockeyed for position. The owners played the competitors against each other masterfully, and in the end, Worcester evidently made the team an offer it couldn’t refuse: It will build a new $90 million stadium and apartment complex. The state of Massachusetts is fronting $35 million; and “the city of Worcester is expected to borrow $100 million, some of which would be repaid by the team,” the Providence CBS affiliate reported. The deal required no input from the state legislature, and was put together in secret. The only apparent cost to the PawSox is that they will now known by the unfortunate moniker “WooSox.”

Somehow, the City of Worcester was able to pledge $100 million with no public awareness whatsoever.  John DePetro and I disagreed, on WNRI earlier today, about the significance of this angle, but I don’t think it should be dismissed.  I certainly want a governing system that allowed municipal leaders to do such a thing.

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Yes, Massachusetts has been doing much better than Rhode Island in recent decades, with some solid reforms, and has therefore built up more trust equity with the voting public.  By contrast, Rhode Island is still suffering a loss of confidence from 38 Studios which (importantly) has been further strained by Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s preferred economic development method of making special deals with powerful insiders and wealthy out-of-state interests.

That doesn’t mean Massachusetts’s luck will continue, or that Rhode Island won’t reevaluate its government.  On the first count, I’ve long been noting that Massachusetts’s lead in education has been flagging ever since concessions to the labor unions under Deval Patrick, and we’ll have to wait a while to see whether the WooSox gamble pays off.  On the second count, we can only hope that the nationally visible face plant with the erstwhile PawSox will cause insiders and the voting public alike to conclude that we just can’t continue on in the way that we’ve been governing ourselves.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    If any municipally owned stadium has ever broke out of being a “charity”, I am not aware of it.

  • guest

    So you don’t support the use of public funds to retain the team and when they are lost you call it a “visible face plant”? Maybe for you. How did you realistically expect to keep them?

    • Justin Katz

      The face plant wasn’t the loss so much as the process by which we lost them. My preferred style of governance — which I think would produce the biggest rewards for the people of Rhode Island in the long run — would be to say, “Sorry, we just don’t do special deals for corporate interests.” The face plant was our government saying, “We absolutely do special deals, but we’re so inept at it that we messed this one up.”

      • guest

        “Sorry, we just don’t do special deals for corporate interests.”, you mean the totally ineffective way which yielded another loss of business for the state?

        Does your philosophy also extend to the Koch brothers agricultural subsidies or is that “different”? I haven’t heard you rail against your paymasters.

        • Justin Katz

          As I said, that wasn’t the message that was sent in this circumstance. Moreover, its benefits would accrue over time, not necessarily win any given moment.

          As for agricultural subsidies, yes, end them. I’ve written that in the past, but the subject doesn’t come up much in Rhode Island. As for my “paymasters,” I’d suggest that you just don’t know what you’re talking about.

          • Rhett Hardwick

            Just wanted to mention that, although I have never attended a baseball game anywhere, I feel some sense of loss. Has something to do with being the “biggest little state”. I am unable to put a price tag on that sense of loss.