Local soccer

What we know about Rhode Island’s Tidewater Landing stadium project — plus a bonus idea

While the Bay State Soccer Sentinel’s main focus will be the New England Revolution and soccer as a whole in Massachusetts, there’s nothing in the rules that says we can’t take a peek around our region when it comes to their plans for the sport. We support the growth of soccer, always have and always will, and our friends in Rhode Island have themselves a project on their hands which, for soccer fans at least, should be a salve for losing the Pawtucket Red Sox to Worcester last year.

Brett Johnson, the co-chair of USL Championship club Phoenix Rising FC, heads the investment firm Fortuitous Partners. Johnson’s firm won the rights to redevelop the riverfront areas of downtown Pawtucket, and hopes to land a USL Championship club for the Ocean State.

Here’s what we know about the Tidewater Landing project:

$400 million is the estimated cost

Multiple published reports note that the project will cost $400 million, the largest economic development plan in Pawtucket’s history, with the Tidewater, Apex, and Division Street parcels which are, with the exception of the Apex property, fairly wooded and undeveloped.

A 7,500-seat soccer stadium is cornerstone of the project, which would sit on the western banks of the Blackstone River. There would also be parking lots, a riverfront park, retail shops and restaurants on this parcel, the Tidewater site.

He hopes to have a USL Championship team in Pawtucket — the Rhode Island Riptides — in place for the 2022 season.

In addition, there are plans for a mixed use development on the eastern side of the river, bordering School Street/Route 114, some eight blocks to the west of McCoy Stadium. There will be retail, residential, and another park.

On the north side of Interstate 95, the Apex site, will feature an indoor sports complex, a hotel, a conference center, and commercial real estate.

The stadium is the important piece

The priority, of course, is the stadium: to get that team in place by March 2022, a little over two years away, work on the stadium is paramount.

The 17.1-acre Tidewater site is partially owned by the city of Pawtucket, and partially owned by National Grid. Getting the land from the city should be easy, and the firm is working with National Grid on a long-term ground lease.

Private funds are expected to be used to build the stadium, with estimates coming in at $45 million. Johnson’s crew, when they took over Phoenix Rising, built a 6,200-seat stadium near Arizona State University in only 51 days. That means I expect that once all of the preliminary issues regarding land acquisition are settled, the stadium should be up within two months — of course, that’s if the weather cooperates. Pawtucket isn’t Phoenix when it comes to favorable building weather.

In addition, the 10.77-acre Division Street parcel is also owned by the city of Pawtucket.

The 12.19-acre Apex property, however, is privately owned. That means there is the possibility that the indoor sports complex and hotel/etc. won’t come to fruition immediately.

Who is in favor of/against it?

The project has the support of Pawtucket mayor Donald R. Grebien as well as various city councilors, and the Rhode Island General Assembly passed legislation earlier this year to make this project more feasible.

According to an article in The Pawtucket Times on Dec. 5, a number of residents in the neighborhood are either flip-flopping, are totally for it, or think it won’t do anything for Pawtucket.

Bonus thought: What we would like to see happen with the stadium

Of course, we have no say in what happens with the stadium itself, but I’m hoping the folks with Tidewater Landing will read our piece and nod along.

Johnson has said that outside of the Riptide, which will be there for 17 dates a year, there will be the opportunity for other sports — and, ahem, concerts — to fill in other dates. Unlike a baseball stadium, venues such as this are almost like white elephants unless one can fill the dates.

One of the things I’d like to see are RIIL — Rhode Island Interscholastic League — state championships, whether they be for soccer, football, or lacrosse, or all three, played there. Here in Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association uses Gillette for its high school football Super Bowls, and has for the last decade or so, all due to the generosity of one Robert Kenneth Kraft. The MIAA uses TD Garden for its Eastern Mass. state semifinals in basketball and the state finals for hockey, as well as Worcester’s DCU Center for state finals for basketball. The Red Sox have not ponied up Fenway Park for baseball state finals, but have held high school football games there instead.

Johnson should be in contact with RIIL about hosting events like that at their new facility, and much like Kraft does for the MIAA, do it at little to no cost for the state association.

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