Columns

Corvese ’15: From PawSox to ProSox?

By
Opinions Columnist
Friday, March 6, 2015

I was never a big fan of watching baseball, whether on ESPN or in person — the endless innings bored me. But experiencing the sport at a historic stadium was always a spectacle worth beholding. Growing up in Rhode Island, I spent countless childhood summer days in the stands at McCoy Stadium, home of the Pawtucket Red Sox. As the minor league affiliate to the Boston Red Sox a few miles north, the PawSox had games with predictably lower stakes. I still hoped to catch a home run ball anyway.

So when I learned that the PawSox were sold for $20 million to investors who want to move the team to Providence, I was heartbroken. And after the sadness faded, I was angry, because a new baseball stadium is not what Providence needs.

Nostalgia aside, there are plenty of reasons why a Providence stadium is a strikeout. One of the most glaring issues is the New Englander’s complaint of choice: traffic. Unlike Boston, where Red Sox fans can conveniently hop on a train to Fenway Park, Providence lacks an efficient and widely-used public transportation system.

The increased traffic in and around the city’s slim streets will make car travel nightmarish, and parking garages will just consume real estate that would be better used for buildings not full of cars. The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority will need to significantly alter its routes and running times to accommodate transport to a stadium — a move that may not be logistically or financially feasible. And while the proposed streetcar project in the Jewelry District could provide some benefit, it is currently unclear how much of Providence it would serve.

The notion that Providence has ample space to comfortably fit a stadium and its accompanying amenities is as preposterous as the idea of Boston having space to host the 2024 Summer Olympics — there’s no need to densely pack our budding metropolis.

In addition to a waste of traffic space, a stadium would also be economically destructive to the potential of the I-195 land. The front page of the city of Providence’s website reads “A City that Works.” It won’t be doing much more of that if the stadium is erected. A baseball stadium can only provide employment in the spring and summer months — and low-paying jobs, at that. Even if the stadium also hosts concerts and amateur games, it is doubtful that this would make up for winter losses.

How can we possibly justify an empty McCoy Stadium alongside a Providence Stadium that will be unoccupied for six months out of the year? Sen. James Sheehan, D-Narragansett and North Kingstown, opposed the plan on these terms, stating that using the land for industries like biomedicine “is more likely to generate economic growth than jobs at a baseball stadium,” the Providence Journal reported.

While Fenway Park hosts figure skating and hockey events in the winter, using a stadium for these purposes contributes little to significant economic growth. Providence is not a city like Boston or New York that has a sustainable baseball franchise in addition to other prominent industries — our development priorities should lie elsewhere.

Still, if the stadium did provide some economic benefit to Providence, the devastation to Pawtucket caused by the departure must not be overlooked. Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien told NBC 10 that the move is “both heartbreaking and gut-wrenching.” McCoy also took in over half a million visitors last year, the New York Times reported, and while that number is lower than in previous years, it nevertheless represents the success of a team that defined Pawtucket for decades.

While it’s true that the team is fundamentally a business that needs to improve and sustain itself — as it appears lead investors James Skeffington and Boston Red Sox President Larry Lucchino hope to do — it’s still a move that will hurt Pawtucket. This is a classic case of the business boys picking on the smaller guys, and nothing about that shouts Rhode Island team spirit.

Perhaps some of the push behind the proposed move is a deflated ego, a sense of inferiority to neighboring big cities with more substantial sports franchises. But while Providence may not be a haven of professional sports fervor like Boston, it doesn’t need a baseball stadium to stand out. Our city should instead drive itself based on our recent branding as the “Creative Capital,” with a push to empower our local artists and creators. That would certainly be more delightful than an influx of debauched sports bars.

Yet I am doubtful that the new stadium will end up anywhere but Providence. The possibility for a new sense of Providence spirit is high, but the damage to Pawtucket is regretfully irreparable. One small perk: Lawmakers are encouraging the investors to seek funds from private sources rather than taxpayers — sources that Skeffington and Lucchino can likely access and will ease the approval process. At the very least, we can rest assured that the 38 Studios debt debacle will hopefully not be repeated.

Though it’s possibly the most frivolous detail of the debate, I’m concerned about the mascot for the prospective Providence team. What could possibly usurp Paws, the beloved Pawtucket polar bear? One of the proposed team names, the “Rhode Island Red Sox,” brings to mind the Rhode Island Red, our not very majestic state symbol. As most of us Brunonians know, bears are better.


Gabriella Corvese ’15 is a former Herald opinions editor and can be reached at 
gabriella_corvese@brown.edu.