Eli Sherman and Matt Paddock
PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — Pawtucket soccer stadium supporters acknowledged publicly Monday the developer hasn’t finished raising funds for its share of the project, although the company remains confident it will reach its goal.
Standing in front of the Tidewater Landing site where developer Fortuitous Partners is currently building a new soccer stadium for minor-league soccer team Rhode Island FC, Mayor Donald Grebien highlighted that construction is moving forward despite the city hitting pause on issuing $27 million in public bonds to help pay for it.
The mayor also indicated Fortuitous hasn’t completed its fundraising efforts, as the developer has agreed to cover $43 million of the overall stadium cost, pegged at $124 million as of last summer.
“They have most of their private stack already and they’re spending it,” he told 12 News, referring to the private capital the developer is raising for the project.
Fortuitous and public officials have said the developer has already put about $23 million of private funds into Tidewater, with the money being used in part to pay for the construction so far. The site has been leveled and the area where the soccer pitch will be built is covered with gravel.
When asked Monday how much more the company needs to raise and how long it might take, spokesperson Mike Raia declined to answer, but he said Fortuitous is confident it will meet its goal.
“Work would not have started or advance to this level if there were not complete confidence in the full capital stack being raised,” Raia said. “The process remains ongoing and there is a pathway for completion in the near future.”
Questions have swirled about the project’s outlook since city officials revealed last week they aren’t ready to issue the bonds, a move that was supposed to happen by February. Supporters have blamed inflation and rising interest rates, but have been been careful so far not to talk in much detail about underlying financing issues.
In order for the deal to close, both public officials and the developer must be ready to close on debt financing — and so far nobody is pointing fingers.
But there’s no indication interest rates will start falling any time soon, with the Federal Reserve hiking rates again last week, and Grebien declined to provide a new timeline Monday.
“I don’t want to speculate on a time,” he said, adding that more specific details will be forthcoming from the city, state and developer in the coming month.
Not issuing the bonds has resulted in another delay for when fans might see soccer played at the new stadium. On Sunday, Rhode Island FC president Brett Luy sent a message to season ticket depositors, saying they had begun looking at other places as possible alternatives to start their first season — which he is adamant will still happen next year.
Team officials declined to comment on where else they are looking, but they have indicated it will be inside Rhode Island. With no other professional soccer in the state, options are limited.
“Our leadership team is evaluating all venue options while the construction of the stadium at Tidewater Landing progresses,” Luy wrote in the message. “We will finalize those plans in the near future. Once the venue for next year is finalized, we will announce plans and policies for how you can convert your deposit to season tickets for our historic inaugural season.”
Grebien said the goal now is to have Rhode Island FC start playing at the new stadium halfway through its inaugural season, which is slated to begin next spring.
“We think that’s doable,” he said.
This isn’t the first time the schedule for soccer at the new stadium has been delayed.
In 2019, when the development was first announced, supporters said the ball would drop in 2022. A year later, during the pandemic, developer Brett Johnson said the target start had slipped into 2023.
Last year, Fortuitous came back to the state after an initial public-private financing plan fell through, which at the time they also attributed to inflation. Gov. Dan McKee went on to cast the tie-breaking vote in a controversial decision to shift millions away from future housing construction at Tidewater in order to help pay for the stadium itself.
Developers said then games would begin in spring 2024.
Eli Sherman (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Target 12 investigative reporter for 12 News. Connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook.