The Pawtucket soccer stadium project is taking a breather with financing woes delaying kickoff. The city’s redevelopment agency has a closed-door discussion of the riverfront development on its agenda Tuesday, but the issue is far from settled.
WPRI-12 first reported public officials had paused plans to issue government bonds to help pay for the $124 million stadium at the centre of Tidewater Landing.
Pawtucket: Construction crews have begun laying the foundation for the soccer-specific stadium home to the United Soccer League’s new expansion team in 2024. But the riverfront project has run into a bit of a wall in terms of financing, as unfavourable financial conditions have caused the city’s Commerce Department to delay issuing the public bonds required to help pay for the entire Tidewater Landing development.
The $102 million complex on the banks of the Seekonk River will include the 10,500-seat, $124 million stadium and commercial space. A pedestrian bridge over the Pawtucket River is also part of the plan, which will be a centrepiece for a broader revitalization of the entire area. The city, Rhode Island Commerce Department and developer Fortuitous Partners picked the site through a competitive bidding process in 2019.
While the state bonding component of Tidewater Landing was originally scheduled to close this month, it has now been delayed until 2022. A spokeswoman for the city’s Economic Development and Finance Authority said that’s due to a change in market conditions. She didn’t say what kind of changes, but she did note that a revised plan for the city portion of the financing has been submitted to the Commerce Corporation.
Commerce Department Secretary Liz Tanner declined to discuss the details of the revised proposal, saying only that the agency is working with the city and the team to ensure it’s “a financially sound project.” She added that the agency had not requested any additional public assistance beyond what was approved last year.
In announcing the reworked financing plan, McKee emphasized the need to protect taxpayers. She also noted that the reworked plan was designed to help ensure the project is completed on time.
Despite the setbacks, McKee says he remains confident that construction will begin on schedule next summer. The stadium will be the first home for Rhode Island FC, a USL Championship club expected to attract an annual average attendance of 8,000 fans during its first season of play in 2024. Organizers hope the team will draw bigger crowds once it has a permanent home and that larger events can also be held at the venue.
The centrepiece of the Tidewater Landing project is a new soccer-specific stadium that will host the new USL championship team. The facility is expected to be completed in the spring of 2024. A public announcement regarding the franchise’s name, colours and crest will be made in the coming months. The 10,500-seat stadium was designed by a team led by Brett Johnson, founder of Fortuitous Partners (a firm specializing in sports-anchored mixed-use real estate projects).
Construction began last summer on the 400 million dollar project, transforming Pawtucket’s riverfront with office space, apartments, a 200-room hotel, and a public infrastructure component. The stadium will be financed privately, with private money, tax increment financing, and some public funds generated by a newly-authorized tax-increment financing tool that the state’s Commerce Department has approved for use in Pawtucket.
State Commerce Secretary Liz Tanner said in a statement that the plan for public funding in Pawtucket will incorporate “strong taxpayer protections.” This will ensure that any state investments will only be made if and when construction has begun and that the public infrastructure portion of the project has been completed. The exact amount of state investment will be determined during the 120-day due diligence period for the project.
Tanner said the state would also work with Fortuitous to determine a project timeline, and the city’s economic development team will help facilitate the public investment process. “The City of Pawtucket remains fully committed to the success of this project and will continue to work closely with Fortuitous Partners to advance the project as quickly as possible.”
The new soccer stadium at Tidewater Landing will be equipped with state-of-the-art video boards located above the east and west end zones. The displays will provide fans live-action, replays, game information, statistics, video features and advertisements. The stadium seats will be arranged to optimize viewing angles, with club-level seating extending all the way down both field sidelines. Club-level patrons will have access to a 50,000-square-foot enclosed club-level concourse that will be climate controlled, including bars, lounge areas, and expanded dining options.
The $400 million development project will include a soccer-specific stadium home to the future USL Championship team. The stadium is part of a larger property development concept known as Tidewater Landing and will feature new housing, retail and a pedestrian bridge across the Seekonk River. It is expected to revitalize the Pawtucket riverfront and attract new jobs. The development is expected to add more than $130 million annually to Rhode Island’s GDP.
The project is financed by the city, Commerce Corporation and private investors, including Brown University alum Brett Johnson and his company Fortuitous Partners. Johnson’s firm specializes in sports-anchored mixed-use real estate projects. He is also the founder of the USL Championship, a second-tier American professional soccer league with teams such as Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC and Louisville City FC playing in their brand-new homes.
According to the Pawtucket Chronicle, the stadium project will be one of the largest economic development projects in the city’s history. It will bring in more than seven times the amount of private investment than what the PawSox hoped to get when they proposed their own project last year.
Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor has said that he believes Fortuitous’s proposal is a “much better deal” for the city than the Red Sox’s. However, the city will need to buy the property the company wants to develop from its current owner, National Grid. This could be accomplished through eminent domain, and the city has been in positive conversations with the utility for more than a year.
In addition to a new stadium, the development will include a 40,000-square-foot medical centre and other commercial buildings. According to Commerce officials, the construction will create hundreds of jobs and stimulate the economy. The project will also include a pedestrian bridge connecting the developments to School Street and other projects along the same riverfront.
Officials have not announced the name of the soccer club that will play in the new stadium but will announce it soon. The name is expected to be a nod to the state’s rich history of soccer and will draw on direct input from the community. The team’s colours and iconic crest will also be revealed soon.
Pawtucket: A sea of hardhats wearing neon vests was dotted along the riverfront as the construction of a soccer stadium and development project began this week. The city hopes to lure a new minor league professional soccer team that will play in the United Soccer League Championship in 2024. The team will be known as Rhode Island FC, and the crest and colours were designed to reflect soccer’s rich history in the state.
The project will be the largest economic development in Pawtucket’s history, with $400 million in private investment to transform hundreds of thousands of square feet on the riverfront and construct a soccer-specific stadium on a site once home to a National Grid gas plant. The developer, Fortuitous Partners, is led by Brown University graduate Brett Johnson. The stadium would sit on the west bank of the Seekonk River, with most of its 11,000 seats located within the main stand, leaving a scenic opening towards the water.
Rhode Island Commerce Commissioner Gina Raimondo emphasized the importance of the project to Pawtucket’s future at the news conference on Monday, saying that the state is one of the top 10 markets for televised soccer in the country and that viewership for the sport is growing. “We need to bring a professional soccer team to Rhode Island,” she said, adding that the stadium is crucial to attracting jobs and increasing tourism.
Raimondo also stressed that partnering with the city of Pawtucket is key to success, and she promised to work closely with Mayor Donald Grebien. The city has already provided $9 million to the project, including a contribution from a new tax increment financing tool and a deal with the city that would save Fortuitous Partners $15 million over the stadium’s life through a revenue share arrangement.
In a letter sent to potential season ticket holders on Sunday, Rhode Island FC president Brett Luy addressed questions about the project’s financial health. He reassured fans that games would begin next year, even if the first ball dropped somewhere other than Tidewater Landing.