Rhode Island Sports Team Asks State Lawmakers for Hefty Handout

Published May 27, 2015

The Pawtucket Red Sox, a minor-league affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, is seeking up to $120 million in taxpayer subsidies over a 30-year period for the construction and maintenance of a new stadium.

If state lawmakers approve, the payment agreement would in addition to the city government’s no-cost donation of land for the stadium.

Former Ballplayer Unimpressed

Although the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity has not taken an official stand on the Pawtucket stadium proposal, its chief operating officer, Mike Stenhouse, says he thinks taxpayers deserve a better deal.

“Personally, as a former Pawtucket and Boston Red Sox player and television analyst, there is nothing I would like to see more than a beautiful downtown ballpark,” Stenhouse said. “Professionally, as founder of a free-market think tank, I cannot support significant taxpayer funding of the project without receiving anything more than vague hopes for economic development in return.

“A better deal would not socialize the downside,” Stenhouse said. “A better deal would not completely privatize the upside.”

‘Emotionally Attached’

Lake Forest College economics professor Robert Baade says sports subsidies often fail to deliver on their proponents’ promises. Baade is a policy advisor for The Heartland Institute, which publishes Budget & Tax News.

“One could make an argument that sports teams and stadium subsidies have nothing to do with economics but are routinely benign [or], in some cases, induce a negative outcome,” Baade said. “Fans are emotionally attached to their teams, and many politicians operate under the fear that if a team abandons their city under their watch, there will be a huge political price to pay.”

Baade says sports subsidies may make lawmakers feel good about themselves, but they do not provide an economic boost to cities.

“We ought to be honest about what teams and stadiums provide in terms of economic impact,” Baade said. “This is really a quality-of-life issue. It’s a psychological issue. … It’s not an issue of economics.”

Tony Corvo ([email protected]) writes from Beavercreek, Ohio.