The Rosters Are A’Roarin’: Home Season Begins

The hottest part of a flame is closest to the source. In this case, the greatest competition in is always at home – home season that is! Last year, spectators witnessed home bouts that ended with single points separating the teams or rolling into overtime. When you pit athletes who know one another so well against each other, you’re going to get some fight-to-the-finish finales!

Subtract veteran derby girls and add newly established skaters, and you never know what is going to happen!

This year’s three home bouts will take place one Saturday per month at the Alex & Ani Outdoor Rink in downtown Providence. On July 25, it will be Old Money Honeys versus the Sakonnet River Roller Rats. On Aug 29, you’ll see the Mob Squad battle against the Sakonnet River Roller Rats. Then on Sept 19, the Old Money Honeys will go skate-to-skate with the Mob Squad. After all is rolled and won, after the victories and the points have been tallied, we will conclude this year’s season with the Home Team Championship Double Header at Teamworks in Warwick on Oct 10! Tickets are available for the Providence bouts now at

Before you turn the page, get to know your teams! Without further adieu, I present to you PRD’s home team rosters.

Mob Squad: (Captain) Smashley Olsen, Baby Fighterfly, Beat-Trix LeStrangle, Boones Harm, Caped Crusk8ter, Citizen Toxie, Death Rochelle, Dita Von Muerta, Elsie Ya Later, Freak’n’Awesome, Goldie Glocks, Lana Arvina, Shotz of Petrone, Shreddy Roosevelt, Sun Scream, Terror Swift, Toni Montana and Varla Gunz.

Old Money Honeys: (Captain) Cindy Lou Screw, Breakbeat Betty, Checker Pulse, Delta Bravo, Jetta Von Diesel, Jigsaw, Lexi Laweless, Malady D’Amour, Mortician Addams, Nutritional Beast, Raggedy Anneurysm, Rhoda Perdition, Roxy ElbowYa, Sinnamon Splice, Smoke ‘n’ Mirrors and Val Kyrie.

Sakonnet River Roller Rats: (Captain) Trannie Oakley, Annie Trackburne, Axe A. Dental, Craisy Dukes, D.A.Lek, Dark & Stormy, Mary Slayne, Max Slayer Stone, Milla Lowlife, Pez DispensHer, Puma Thurman, Scarizard, Shamblock, Sis Boom, Bonnie, SmackGyver and Trophy Knife.

Tickets on sale now at

Know Your Mom and Pop: Lang’s Bowlarama There’s nothing like a good night of bowling. Something about being in a bowling alley inspires a nostalgic feeling of simpler times. It’s a simple game (at least to the casual player) and doesn’t matter much how good you are — everyone has fun in the end.

Ed Lang was a living legend in his time. He managed to sweet talk his way to numerous jobs, all with slight truths and a salesman’s wit. Though he was successful and a name around , Lang had an unfulfilled dream. He yearned to open a bowling alley and remained persistent until he found a piece of property in Cranston and opened Lang’s Bowlarama on October 2, 1960. He ran the business by himself until 1972 when his son, Bruce, came back to Rhode Island to help run the company after a successful stint as president of a production company. The father and son team ran the bowling alley during its heyday in the 1970s, including hosting the pro tour in 1976.

The family made the decision to lease the bowling alley to AMF in 1983, which seemed to mark the end of an era. Twenty-nine years later, the center was in disrepair, a far cry from its neon-lit popularity of yore. Rich and Dave Lang, grandsons of Ed, came to the rescue, taking over the company with the hope of restoring it to its glory days. They decided to renovate the entire place, discovering the color schemes and old logos from the 1960s, which they incorporated into their design.

“It has been a non-stop adventure of passion, fun and building the business – one happy customer at a time,” Rich said, detailing how today’s Lang’s Bowlarama is a unique reimagining of the original. “The colors were matched to the original palette we found during renovation,” he noted. Lang’s also features some classic design references to the ’60s and ’70s, such as a huge “BOWL” sign and a massive atomic lamp, as well as vintage photos of the family.

Lang’s has a lot to offer in addition to 10-pin bowling, such as a variety of leagues for ages ranging from kids to seniors, with sign-ups for fall leagues starting soon. They book for birthday parties and corporate events. They have Atomic Bowling under black lights and a laser light show Thursday through Sunday. There is a full service pro shop and bowling lessons from a Top 100 Nationally Ranked USBC Certified Coach. There is also a full bar and menu with a lot to choose from. The Skyline Lounge, which is located in the bowling alley, features live music on Fridays and Saturdays. Summer improvement plans include adding a new expanded bar, event center and larger pro shop.

2015 is its emerald year — recognition of its 55th anniversary — and various activities are planned for the rest of the year. Every Friday and Saturday features “Spin the Prize Wheel,” which takes place during Atomic Bowling and is hosted by DJ Duval. Participants can win almost $300 in prizes. There is a free concert featuring local musicians on July 18 that will benefit Operation Clean Government, an organization that means a lot to the Lang’s. They also partnered with RI Community Food Bank to host a charity car show on August 8, 2015 from 10 am – 3 pm. The event is free to the public (a $10 fee and a canned good for anyone wishing to register their car) and features DJ Car Guy, the Gansett Girls and food for $1.55. June 28 was a successful part of the anniversary celebration, as Lang’s hosted the first annual Lang’s Scholarship Tournament. Eighty-nine bowlers registered for the tournament, which exceeded expectations. Hunter Kempton shot a 300 game, but Jalen Scott-Jones took first place, with a total score of 908. A $1,000 scholarship was awarded to Qwadaris Rembert, who will attend Vincennes University in Indiana studying business management. A $665 scholarship was awarded to Jalen Scott-Jones, who will study sports business management at Webber International University in Florida.

These events are leading up to the main celebration on October 2 and 3. October 2, which marks 55 years to the day of Lang’s opening its doors to the public, will feature live music on the bowling lanes, along with plenty of prizes and giveaways. October 3 is an all-day family event that will be full of great food and bowling specials. There will also be face painting, balloon animals and other kid-friendly activities. Of course, there will be plenty of giveaways and a few can’t-miss surprises.

Lang’s Bowlarama is a Rhode Island staple, proving that tradition and family are important to the residents of our state. Its longevity as a business shows the perseverance of its owners. The celebrations planned this year will let everyone know that Lang’s knows how to throw a great party, just like they know how to keep a fantastic and successful business rolling.

Riveters Rally to Victory at ECDX

Providence’s travel team, the Rhode Island Riveters, were plagued this year with injuries and zero wins going into the 2015 East Coast Derby Extravaganza, slipping from #78 to #98 in the WFTDA rankings. The event featured back-to-back bout days with PRD taking on Lansing Derby Vixens (#97) on Saturday and DC Rollergirls (#80) on Sunday.

Both bouts were intense and dramatic, and concluded with the final scores separated by single digits. Lansing came up on top with a 174-170 victory. However, on Sunday, Providence went above and beyond, coming out strong by toppling DC with an upsetting 197-191 victory! Interestingly, DC defeated Ithaca Sufferjets (#87) the previous day, also by six points.

Now it’s time to get geared up for when the season gets very interesting. Starting on Saturday, July 25, the home season starts for three straight months at the Alex & Ani City Center – the downtown Providence outdoor rink. The travel teams get broken up into three home teams: The Old Money Honeys, The Sakonnet River Roller Rats and The Mob Squad. Who will be this year’s Providence Roller Derby Home Season Champions? Tickets are available now for all three bouts: July 25, August 29 and September 19 at! Pics or it Didn’t Happen

If you live in , there is a good chance that you or someone you know has a fish photo hanging on the wall. Maybe it is Grandpa posing with a pike or your friend’s dad holding a bass. Maybe it is your sister showing off a monster striper from when she was a kid. Historically, people claim, “It was this big!” as they make an exaggerated version of the size of the fish with their hands. When it comes to fishing stories, as far as I am concerned, if there is not a photo, it didn’t happen. Perhaps there is no better way to display your angling skills to your peers than to post a photo of a lunker on Instagram. You might measure the success of your day by the number of likes your photo gets rather than the size of the fish. The dog days of summer are almost here and there will be ample time to get out and beef up your social media. While some of us are day-drinking at The Hot Club, others will be dropping bait off the sides of boats or casting lures into rivers anxiously waiting for a tug from the big one. In the early 2000s, many of my summer afternoons were spent with friends indoors in a dimly lit basement sitting in front of a computer. Now, all of the content I want to scroll through can be accessed on a device that fits in my pocket, and these devices have great cameras built into them. Instagram is the first and only social media platform that I have become addicted to so far. Scrolling through my feed is the first thing I do in the morning and the last thing I do at night. When I post a picture, I check my phone every few minutes for likes and comments. It is pathetic. At least I don’t need to sit behind a computer console to do so. Since the social media that most of us are fond of can be more easily used on our smartphones than on a clunky computer, it seems that there is a push to get back outdoors and out of the basement. Photos of people getting out and experiencing things makes for a better feed. If you do catch a fish and want a good photo, use teamwork. If a buddy’s rod suddenly gets bent, and said friend proclaims,”Fish on!” get ready to stop what you’re doing and get your phone out. Put down your pole and snap a few good photos once your buddy gets the hook out. If everyone in your group makes it a habit, there will be better photos and less time out of the water for the fish. Hold the fish out toward the camera to make it look bigger. A two pound bass might look like a three pounder — just don’t block your face in the shot with it. Hold the fish horizontally. That is how it spends most of its life under water and it adds more stress to hold it vertically. Gently release the fish, or keep it if you want to eat it. Your friend can text or email you the photo and it can be on instagram in a few minutes, so long as you don’t spend too much time trying to come up with a witty comment to go with it. If you are fishing alone, you do not have many options other than to take the hook out, reach your slimy hand in your pocket and grab your phone. After smearing a bunch of goo on your touch screen to get to the camera function, hold the fish near your face to confirm that it was in fact you who caught it, and take a nice selfie. Kayaking seems to be growing in popularity, or maybe my peers are just getting hobbies other than drinking. Just be careful when you take a photograph in any boating circumstance. With all the action and slime, you might drop your phone in the water. I put my phone in a sealed sandwich bag in case I capsize in my kayak. If you catch something, ask a buddy to paddle over to take the photo. Taking the hook out yourself while getting your phone ready and trying to not tip over is a tricky task. A little photo teamwork goes a long way. Just remember to put as much effort into taking your friends’ photos as you would want them to put into taking yours. Snap off a few, send them to your friend, then he/she can choose the best one to share with the Instagram world. It will probably make for a better feed than what’s going on in your basement.

Not So Great Gatsby: Gats Rides a Made Pony

Dear Nick,

To paraphrase Rakim: It’s been a long time. I shouldn’t left you without a strong piece to read through; think of how many weak columns you slept through, times up and sorry I kept you. It’s finally summer in the ocean state and along with the usual controversies that keep the local fish wrap in business (Pawsox, pollen tsunamis, bus drivers who can’t stop hitting pedestrians …) we finally get to enjoy the activities we suffer through polar vortices to experience.

When I was a kid growing up in the rough streets of the 02864, my mother would take my siblings and me down to Ann and Hope to make sure we had clothes for back to school, beginning of summer and any other reasons kids needed clothes. We hated every single second of it, as we felt every single second of our youth was better spent not shopping for anything, let alone inside the Ann and Hope, which was a precursor to Walmart, except dirtier and with far less “Duck Dynasty” merchandise. On one fateful trip she bought me a royal blue collared short-sleeved shirt with a red man on a horse. I immediately felt that this is the only shirt I needed and decided that it would be the all-important school photo shirt, the shirt you wear that dictates how you’re perceived by all your classmates basically for all eternity.

My mom was happy with the selection and told me that it was a polo shirt created by an arbiter of American style and sophistication named Ralph Lauren. I guess it never occurred to me to question why the label said “Knights of the Round Table” and why the red man on the horse was holding a flag and not a polo mallet. I am not sure if it’s despite my bootleg introduction or because of it that I became a devotee of Ralph and the world he created. I even started going to polo matches, as some of the best in the country are held in Portsmouth.

Some of my friends ask me what its like, if it’s hard to follow or if it’s really snobby. I tell them it’s basically a really fun tailgate or picnic with horses in the background. If you can follow the intricate rules of football or , polo is a cinch. And at $12 a ticket, the crowd ranges from your basic 1%er to the family of four looking for a fun way to spend a Saturday evening. I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on Red Sox and Patriots tickets and been cussed at, drenched in someone else’s beer and missed being puked on by inches. At polo I was once asked if I could spare some room in my cooler for a neighbor’s rose’. That is not to say that the games themselves aren’t intense and compelling. They are. You have thousand pound thoroughbreds carrying fit men and women at bursts of high speeds, stopping on a dime and trying to hit a little white ball with a mallet. It takes teamwork between man and horse and between teammates, and more than a little concentration and coordination. Like the “showtime” Los Angeles Lakers of the ’80s, great polo players anticipate the action and find their way to the perfect spot on the pitch to receive a pass or score a goal. And when a horse and player play together enough, there is something artful or poetic because the stallion will know where to go and how fast with just a subtle nudge from the rider.

So it’s a fun, family-friendly and inexpensive way to experience a posh sport and you can follow intensely or simply relax and enjoy the company of the other spectators. Other than my relationship with Ralph Lauren and watching the action on Saturdays in Portsmouth over a couple gasses of prosecco, I didn’t know much about how one actually played polo. That is, until I took a lesson.

Agnes Keating, who seems to do it all for Newport Polo (I have spoken with her on separate completely unrelated occasions to buy tickets, bring in a group, get directions to the match, and now lessons) asked if I would like to take a lesson for the purpose of this article. Trying to prove that gonzo journalism didn’t die with Hunter, I quickly said yes, old sport. When I got to the stable of horses, I expected a handful of rented mules, but just looking at these majestic animals I realized I was going to be jumping in the water at the deep end.

My class consisted of the instructor, Dan, and three other young men who were motivated to learn the sport by a classic cocktail of athletic challenges and the chance to meet women. All of the men were in their mid 20s to early 30s by the look of them, and they were all very nice. Not a silver spoon, it seemed, amongst the lot of them. Dan was right out of central casting as far as polo instructors go. He was blond, ruggedly handsome and had an easy way about him. He was very good at sensing, almost instinctively, when one of us was a little hesitant and took the time to give us instruction without seeming coddling. He clearly loves the horses and the sport, and that shone through in all his instruction.

My horse’s name was Romeo. He was once a wild stallion and a ladies man, but time got the best of him and now he is working with the likes of me on the polo fields. I climbed in the mount, leaned down to pat his giant shoulders and whispered, “I know exactly how you feel, my friend.” Romeo knew more about the sport than I did, and he was an asset because he seemed to know what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be before I did. More than that, he stopped me from making more mistakes.

Polo, it turns out, is pretty simple when it comes down to it. You have to score more goals than your opponent. You can strike the ball on either side of your mount, but you have to hold the mallet in your right hand at all times. There is also a right of way rule that ensures the safety of all involved, both man and horse. It only took a short time to learn to play, but to become a skilled player you need to practice, man (or woman), practice. I loved every moment of my lesson, from the short re-introduction to riding a horse to the actual scrimmage at the end of the instruction. I even scored a goal!

Polo is the oldest team sport on the planet. As a spectator sport it offers something for everyone: competition, beautiful horses, a beautiful outdoor space and food and drink in the company of fun people. As a player it offers challenges both physical and mental and the dynamic of a team within a team. Whether you choose to take lessons or experience the fun as a fan, I strongly encourage you to make it down to Glen Park this summer. I’ll see you there! PRD: Looking Toward the Derby Extravaganza

The year continues to be an uphill battle for the derby girls of PVD, but they refuse to throw in the towel as they are less than a month away from the East Coast Derby Extravaganza being held June 19 – 21 in Feasterville, Penn. It’s already been announced that during the weekend the Riveters take on the Lansing Derby Vixens (#101) and the DC Rollergirls (#58).

May featured two tough bouts for PVD. On May 16 in Yonkers, NY, the Riveters faced Suburbia (#81). By halftime, both teams were neck and neck with 61 points each. In the end, the Suburbian Brawl stretched out a lead and took the win 198-141.

On May 30, PVD had more luck with the double header here at home. The scoreboard for PRD and the Green Mountain Derby Dames (#74) stayed at pace. Green Mountain maintained the lead at halftime 90-42, and closed out with a final victory of 149-109. However, the second bout was a very needed PRD victory as the Rocky Point Rollers exchanged leads with Connecticut’s Yankee Brutals. Both teams played for all the points they could get, but Rocky Point picked up the big win 184-168.

PRD now begins the preparations for the ECDX in Penn, but will close out June with another game at home! The next double header will feature two teams from the Ithaca League of Women Rollers on June 27. The Riveters will take on the SufferJets, and the Killah Bees with go up against the BlueStockings at the Meehan Auditorium at . Tickets are available at

The New PawSox Stadium: But Who’s Going to Pay for It?

For over two hours on Wed, May 13, Jim Skeffington, principal representative of the new owners of the Pawtucket Red Sox AAA-level minor-league baseball team, faced a critical but generally polite crowd of 30 to 35 people at an open forum organized and moderated by Greg Nemes at the Design Office in Providence. In his introduction, Nemes said that, while all issues including financing were legitimately on the table for discussion, his own interests were in the urban design questions implicated by building a large sports and entertainment structure on the bank of the Providence River. “Discussions of design of the ballpark may seem like putting the cart before the horse, but both discussions can be useful at this time,” Nemes said.

To his credit, Skeffington stated his case effectively without being baited into disputes over matters of opinion. He opened by saying that he had worked as a lawyer for 14 years for the Boston Red Sox and became involved in purchasing the team on their behalf from the widow of long-time owner Ben Mondor, but the Boston organization decided that they had other uses for the capital and encouraged him when he expressed interest in acquiring the Pawtucket team himself through a consortium that he put together to fund the acquisition.

Because of the forum venue – the Design Office describes itself on its website as “a place for independent designers in downtown Providence” – the mix of attendees was heavy with architects and others, some identifying themselves as teachers at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), who strongly condemned replacing the planned public park with a large building and who asked about sustainability, energy efficiency, environmental footprint and even psychological effects of dividing the city and harming walkability. Skeffington defended the design itself, saying that about 3 acres would be “greenspace” that, except during actual game play, would be publicly accessible year-round. He also said that he would like to see the land between Point Street and Clifford Street used as a public park instead of other purposes such as an electrical power sub-station that he thinks would be very inappropriate in such a prominent location. If that additional land could be used as a park, he said, the resulting amount of greenspace would be only 1.8 acres less than what would result from not building the stadium at all. (In some rural towns in the state, 5 acres is the minimum buildable house lot.)

His response on the public park amounted to saying that, whatever its other merits, a “passive” use of space, such as a park, could not itself employ anyone or create economic activity. He was blunt that the alternative to moving the team to Providence would be to relocate it out of Rhode Island, saying that 400 or so jobs, amounting to what he estimated are 250 full-time equivalents (FTEs), would go with it. He explicitly said that the team had already received unsolicited offers from four out-of-state communities proposing total public financing of construction and relocation costs, which he said would be significantly more profitable if the team owners were looking primarily to maximize profit.

Skeffington repeatedly cited as examples Charlotte and Durham, both in North Carolina, where, he said, construction or renovation of minor-league baseball stadiums served as a catalyst for economic activity. He predicted that such secondary effects would produce “1,000 jobs across the street” much as he claimed had happened in Durham, where the presence of Duke University is comparable to the role of Brown University in Providence, but he conceded that there were “no guarantees” of such effects.

Of course, North Carolina is doing far better economically than Rhode Island in general, and the Charlotte metropolitan area (which extends across the state line into South Carolina) with 2.4 million people is the 22nd biggest in the nation, between Denver (21st) and Pittsburgh (23rd) that have seven major-league teams among them (MLB Colorado Rockies, NFL Denver Broncos, NBA Denver Nuggets, NHL Colorado Avalanche, MLB Pittsburgh Pirates, NFL Pittsburgh Steelers, and NHL Pittsburgh Penguins). Although the Charlotte Knights are a minor-league baseball team like the PawSox and compete in the same league, Charlotte is already an economic powerhouse that has been granted major- league sports expansion franchises three times in the last 30 years: the NFL Carolina Panthers in 1995, the NBA Charlotte Hornets in 1988 (that moved in 2002 and now play as the New Orleans Pelicans), and the NBA Charlotte Hornets in 2004 (that were first named the Bobcats when they replaced the original Hornets). In other words, Charlotte is something of a baseball outlier, and is arguably the largest metropolitan area in the country without a major-league baseball team. By contrast, the Providence metropolitan area, which extends into Massachusetts, with 1.6 million people is the 38th largest in the nation, behind Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News (37th).

Skeffington said several times during his presentation that the strongly negative public reaction to the initial proposal – “Opinion: PawSox Stadium Proposal – Rushed and Opaque,” May 6, 2015 – meant that plan was now “off the table,” and that the team is in confidential negotiations with the state political leadership that he expects to be concluded within days. Although the negotiations are confidential until their conclusion, he emphasized that, if the negotiations are successful, the resulting proposal will be fully public and he would encourage open hearings and debate about whether it should go forward. He said that “if I were a betting man” he would set the odds about “50/50” that these confidential negotiations will produce any proposal at all. He said that of the 30 AAA-level minor-league baseball teams, 27 play in government owned stadiums (including McCoy), and the “typical” financing model for professional sports facilities was 20-30% private money and the remaining 70-80% public money. In response to my question whether the team would agree to put the proposal to a voter referendum, he said that time constraints would make that impossible because the team wanted to be able to begin construction by December 2015, and this required concluding a deal within the current General Assembly session expected to end in June or possibly at a special session shortly afterward.

I admit that Skeffington changed my thinking on major aspects of the project about which I have expressed skepticism in the past. A number of attendees at the forum clearly regarded the move out of Pawtucket as their main objection, holding preprinted signs expressing their desire to keep the team there and speaking about the strength of tradition at McCoy Stadium, citing the famous 33-inning longest game in baseball history. I have said – “Opinion: Questions Surround the PawSox Sale,” March 2, 2015 – that one important practical advantage of staying at McCoy is that it is already paid for, but Skeffington said that renovating McCoy was where the new owners started their thinking but rejected that option because their architectural consultants determined that it would cost $65 million to repair the old ballpark, essentially a complete tear-down and rebuild including foundation and girders, and even then he said it would be a much less than ideal facility. For example, his new stadium as proposed would have a capacity comparable to McCoy of about 10,000, but every seat would be “close to the action” with the first row no more than 12 feet above the field and the seating only 20 rows deep. The new stadium would also feature a “premium club restaurant” with about 150 seats, advanced medical facilities for Boston Red Sox players and other athletes undergoing rehabilitation and physical therapy, an expanded open berm where people could watch games from their own lawn chairs, and other amenities. An important concern, he said, is that about half of the attendees of games come from Massachusetts, so being close to the Providence railroad station served by the MBTA and other public transit would be an enormous advantage. He said that the consultants working for the team found that there were over 12,500 existing off-street parking spaces within a 10-minute walk of the proposed stadium site before counting an already-planned 2,000-car garage unrelated to the stadium project behind the Garrahy Judicial Center and a 650-car garage that would be part of the stadium project. I’m prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt on the unsuitability of staying in Pawtucket.

Skeffington said that Brown University is supportive of the new stadium, an absolutely critical matter because almost half of the land needed is owned by Brown and one of its buildings would have to be demolished as it would otherwise be situated in left field. Because the new stadium is designed to accommodate football and other sports as well as baseball, he said that Brown is excited to take advantage of the opportunity to relocate its five games per year from its facility on Elmgrove Ave in Providence, which is situated in a solely residential area that has produced much friction from neighbors. Likewise, he said that the University of Rhode Island is facing $20-30 million costs to renovate its existing stadium in Kingston, and could draw considerably more than the current 3,000 attendees per game by playing instead in Providence where they would be more accessible to alumni.

Ultimately, I think Skeffington made a good case for the location and design of the stadium, despite the ridiculous center-field replica of the Block Island Lighthouse that makes the entire thing look like a miniature golf course. The principal designer is Populous, whom he described as the acclaimed “guru” of the modern ballpark including Camden Yards in Baltimore and its prototype in Buffalo. I remain highly skeptical about whether a minor-league baseball team and stadium could be the “catalyst” for secondary economic activity that Skeffington claims to expect, and I regard the citation of the Charlotte and Durham examples as somewhat disingenuous because of the fundamentally different economic circumstances in North Carolina and Rhode Island. On the other hand, he could be right.

Without a concrete financial proposal, it is impossible to form, let alone express, any opinion about it. I am very glad that the earlier proposal, which I regarded as absolutely untenable, is completely out of consideration. If the ballpark is built, it has to be done in a way that makes economic sense on its own merits without wishful thinking about it being a “catalyst” for other development that could turn Rhode Island into North Carolina. Brown University and even National Grid may be on board, or at least not voicing objection, but the key stakeholders who have not yet been heard from are the taxpayers.

Pawtucket Red Sox official site for the new ballpark:

The Design Office, 204 Westminster St, Providence, RI:

Infrastructure Bank Versus Baseball Stadium

Rhode Island needs an infrastructure bank. And while the details are not 100% worked out, there is much to recommend in the governor and general treasurer’s Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank proposal. Hopefully the details will create a workable infrastructure for the bank, but today let’s focus on the idea.

If you take a good hard look at where the RI economy is going, we are in a very low growth phase. The conditions for rapid economic growth do not exist in Rhode Island, and cutting taxes for the rich and dismantling environmental and health regulations are not going to get us there. Given the low growth conditions, the only way to improve the well being of most Rhode Islanders is to create a healthy and resilient infrastructure designed specifically to help our communities respond properly to the climate change, food insecurity and rising inequality that are currently haunting us.

It really is that simple. So I want to contrast the public investment in infrastructure with the proposal to build a baseball stadium on the Providence waterfront. In the May 3 Providence Journal there is a lengthy article detailing that the proposed baseball stadium would undo all of the efforts to properly manage stormwater throughout the I-195 lands because they would no longer have green open space to absorb water. And it would cost millions to move the stormwater infrastructure already in place.

The people of RI in this case are given a very contrasting set of choices. Give $120 million of the public’s money to some people to build a baseball stadium that would contribute mightily to increasing the cost of managing stormwater, or invest the public’s money in Green Infrastructure that increases community resilience and safety, helps us cope with climate change and creates more new jobs than a baseball stadium moving jobs that are now a mere 5 miles away. Of course these are not our only choices, but if the people of RI are investing in construction, it is pretty clear which one benefits us more. Support the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank.

Opinion: PawSox Stadium Proposal: Rushed and Opaque

By far the most disturbing aspect of the proposal by the new owners of the Pawtucket Red Sox minor league baseball team to relocate to a stadium on the Providence waterfront is the time pressure and urgency resulting from a veiled threat to move the team out of Rhode Island if the General Assembly does not approve the plan during the current legislative session expected to end in June. Despite giving state government only about eight weeks to act, the plan is so complicated and multifaceted that it is very difficult to understand.

At first, the proposal seemed to be that the team owners would invest about $60 million to construct the new stadium on about $40 million of public land purchased as part of the I-195 relocation project that is nearing completion. That land was previously purchased in substantial part with public bonds that were to be paid off by proceeds from the sale of some of the land to create a “knowledge district” in co- operation with Brown University, Rhode Island School of Design, Johnson and Wales University, Rhode Island Hospital, and other large employers already present in the area. Part of the land that was originally intended as a public park, a component of federal highway financing for the project, would also have to be diverted to the stadium.

It turned out that this was not the proposal at all. As I understand what is currently on the table, rather than put $60 million of their own money into building the stadium, the team owners would use a guaranteed income stream from the state, structured as two offsetting reciprocal leases, to insulate themselves from risk. In addition to providing $40 million in land for free and exempting the stadium from about $3 million per year in city property taxes, the state would promise to pay the team $5 million per year for 30 years to lease the stadium that the team owners would then pay the state to lease back (to play baseball) for $1 million per year. In turn, the team would use the guaranteed lease income from the state to secure a commercial mortgage of about $85 million to build the stadium, relocate utilities and construct parking.

The opacity and complexity of this plan cannot be an accident. It is a reasonable inference that the primary purpose of structuring the deal this way is to prevent the team owners from having to put up their own money, allowing them to create what amounts to a shell entity that would build and own the stadium, while circumventing the requirement in the Rhode Island Constitution that the state government cannot incur long-term debts without approval by voter referendum. If the state itself wanted to borrow money by issuing bonds to build the stadium in the usual way that the state pays for roads, parks and other public works, it would need to ask the taxpayers for permission, but then the state would at least end up owning the stadium. If, instead, a private entity borrows the money, no voter approval would be required because in theory the private entity and not the state is on the hook for the debt, and the private entity would end up owning the stadium. The problem is that by promising to lease the stadium from the private entity for 30 years, the state would be paying essentially what it would if it borrowed the money itself, so in practice the state is assuming the debt and the risk, exactly opposite to the intent and spirit of the constitutional restriction.

To recap, it seems that the team owners are asking for $40 million in land up-front, plus cash from the state of $4 million (net) per year for 30 years, plus cash equivalents in property tax abatement from the city of $3 million per year forever. The team owners would put up none of their own money, would borrow money secured by the state payments and would end up owning the stadium. No one would have to ask the voters for permission.

What would the state get in return? There is no reason to expect that the team would contribute any more to the economy in Providence than in Pawtucket: It would not employ more people or pay them higher wages, and the team has repeatedly asserted that ticket prices would stay more or less the same. Although the team is private and does not disclose its financial information, it is really an ordinary small business with net profit likely around $1.5 million per year – “Opinion: Questions Surround the PawSox Sale,” Motif, March 2, 2015 – and other published estimates are lower than that. The new owners have ruled out keeping the team in Pawtucket, but it is hard to see where else they could go. Would Massachusetts be willing to commit over $100 million to move them to Worcester or Springfield?

There is real risk: Professional sports can be a ruthless business, especially when trying to make predictions three or more decades into the future. Remember the Providence Steamrollers team in the NBA? Remember the Providence Steam Roller team in the NFL? Remember the Providence Grays baseball team in the National League? What, you didn’t even know that Providence used to have major league teams in basketball, football and baseball? Where are they now?

No matter what the terms of the stadium deal, there is enormous public skepticism and little support from the voters and taxpayers for a massive government subsidy on this scale. The simplified math is that $100 million is more than $100 from each person in Rhode Island. How many people are willing to pay $100 of their own money to keep a minor league baseball team around?

Opinion: A Tough Question for Gina

Ah, what’s a governor to do? It’s a hard call. Do you support a ballpark in Providence, to the delight of organized private labor unions that put you in office, or do you listen to the people who are tired of having the state take on more and more financial commitments?

Sure, you may be looking to Washington in the not too distant future and that labor support would sure come in handy, as well as some good campaign donations from the well-to-do players behind the stadium.

But then you remember that you were only elected by about 40% of the people who actually voted, and you are seeing public support for a Providence stadium waning quickly.

And then there’s that “jobs, jobs, jobs” line that was reliant on a high-end tech use for the property currently being eyed. Sure, it saves you from having to live up to the economic engine pledge, but it really doesn’t pass the smell test.

Putting up state money, in whatever disguise, is not an option here. The reality is that a transfer of hot dog vendor jobs from Pawtucket to Providence is not real economic development (unless you are prepared to claim them as ‘jobs saved’ in the jobs created column).

Sure, there will be a brief uptick in construction jobs, but moving forward? Not really.

Admittedly, this is not the same deal as 38 Studios, but it has similarities beyond the common theme of baseball. There is the shrouded secrecy concern that, in light of the secrecy during the Governor’s General Treasure stint, does not engender blind trust from the public. Then there are the big money players behind the scenes looking for corporate welfare at a time you are trimming state aid budgets.

Rhode Islanders would support a stadium in Providence, but they are not looking to buy one. People actually like Pawtucket’s old McCoy Stadium. They stupidly believe that if Ben Mondor could profitably operate McCoy, why can’t other astute business hands do the same?

I cannot blame the business interests for attempting to get into the state’s pants. There is no harm in asking, only in granting. States in dire straits are prime targets for such investment schemes, even though they are the states that can least afford such luxury purchases.

Making it more attractive by allowing “only decades of easy payments of $2 million a year” is sheer insult to a taxpayer reeling from 38 Studios, the landfill fiasco, the International Center at URI, and dozens, if not hundreds of yet to be uncovered problems in Rhode Island fiscal management.

What’s a governor to do? Dance the dance. State that the offer is not good enough for the RI taxpayer, continue behind the scenes, have the pot sweetened (slightly and only to the extent it was originally anticipated by the stadium players), eventually capitulate saying you’ve gotten the best deal for the taxpayers and economic development. Jobs, jobs, jobs!! We’re moving forward.

Sit back. Feel slightly comforted in the fact that you no longer need to actually economically develop the I-95 land into a high-tech wonderland, consider the win being the extra campaign contributions from supporters (waiting has a way of encouraging courtship), position yourself to be ready to accept the best deal in a few weeks (get that PR machine cranking), practice the “moving forward” line a few more times. The reality is that if the PawSox want to move to Providence, they should do so, with their own financing. State involvement in funding is, at least in Rhode Island, a continuation on the path to hell.

If the state is dead set on spending money, invest in Pawtucket. If the owners are not happy, move. Let some other state fund this business venture.

Remember the lessons of the past: When private business won’t fund it, it shouldn’t be funded. When a state is a business partner, the too big to fail logic often sets in, except in Rhode Island, where the state just ends up paying the bill with the remaining funds that have been sidetracked (more accurately, stolen) from pensioners and not yet handed over to hedge funds managers or 38 Studio investors.