Best of 2019, #10: Pawtucket USL Stadium Proposal Unveiled

Pawtucket Soccer Stadium rendering December 2019

We end 2019 with a countdown of the 10 biggest stories of the year on Soccer Stadium Digest, as chosen by editors and partially based on page views. Today, #10: A USL stadium is proposed as the anchor of redevelopment in downtown Pawtucket.

A $400-million development proposal for downtown Pawtucket anchored by a new stadium for a USL Championship club could have widespread implications beyond the pitch, but it will have hurdles to clear to become a reality.

Earlier this month, Brett Johnson of Fortuitous Partners—along with Pawtucket and Rhode Island officials—unveiled a $400-million development proposal named Tidewater Landing, to be located in downtown Pawtucket. That plan is headlined by a new soccer stadium at the site of a former manufactured gas plant along the Seekonk River. The stadium would be home to a USL Championship club, while anchoring planned development that includes apartments across the river, plus offices, a hotel, conference center, and an indoor sports center at the downtown Apex property—a site that was under consideration for a proposed new ballpark for Minor League Baseball’s Pawtucket Red Sox (Class AAA; International League) before they opted to move to Worcester, MA.

As envisioned, the plan is intriguing in several respects. First off, it reflects the current trend of constructing a new stadium at the center of a larger development, a concept that has become increasingly popular around MLS and has also gained traction in USL circles, with the upcoming home of Louisville City FC being one prominent example. Additionally, the plan would be led by someone with a leadership background in pro soccer, as Johnson is co-governor of USL Championship’s successful Phoenix Rising FC.

Pawtucket, meanwhile, will soon have a void in sports scene with the upcoming departure of the PawSox—who are slated to move to Worcester after the 2020 season—but it could be filled quickly if the $45-million, 7,500-seat soccer stadium is completed by 2022, as project backers are hoping. This plan also ties into the ambitions for large-scale downtown redevelopment that local and state officials have had, one that they tried unsuccessfully to fulfill in new ballpark negotiations with the PawSox.

The unveiling of this plan generated plenty of buzz in late 2019, but there are still some unknowns as 2020 approaches. It is expected that the project will call for $70-$90 million in public assistance via tax increment financing, which would primarily go toward covering infrastructure improvements, though the exact number is expected to take shape during negotiations. Furthermore, the Apex property will need to be acquired. Meanwhile, the proposed stadium site will require environmental remediation, a problem that project stakeholders say they are working to address.

While it will take time before it is determined if the proposal falls into place, and how particular aspects of it take shape, Tidewater Landing would certainly have interesting implications on both professional soccer and downtown Pawtucket if it materializes as envisioned.

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