- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 7, 2015

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - First came the windup, now comes the pitch.

The owners of the Pawtucket Red Sox are kicking off a summer tour of Rhode Island’s 39 cities and towns Tuesday to tout their proposal for a new ballpark in the state’s capital city, and team officials say the ownership group wants to hear from the community.

“We’d like to share the vision for the ballpark and why we think it’s a terrific idea, but at the same time we’d like to hear from residents,” PawSox spokeswoman Patti Doyle said.

The goal of the “listening tour,” Doyle said, is to find out how to build a ballpark that can serve the entire community, not just Providence. The tour begins at the Smithfield Senior Center in Greenville.

“The feedback, I expect, will be valuable,” she said.

For the past month, the group has been hosting a walking tour every Monday of the former Interstate 195 highway land downtown where the owners hope to build a new ballpark. Doyle said they’ve received feedback from both supporters and opponents.

The ownership group’s original stadium proposal - asking for $120 million in state subsidies and the riverfront land that’s slated to become a public park - was not a home run.

Since then, the owners of the Triple-A franchise of the Boston Red Sox have been meeting behind closed doors with state lawmakers to develop a new proposal. The group has said keeping the team in Pawtucket is not an option.

Doyle said she doesn’t know when the proposal will be ready.

Not everyone is excited about the tour.

Providence resident Tim Empkie said the PawSox group’s meetings have all been the same.

“They lack any facts at all. They’re just a lot of platitudes,” Empkie said. “There’s accumulated evidence from multiple sources that ballparks, especially Triple-A stadiums, do not generate economic development.”

Empkie, who is part of a local group opposed to the stadium, said he and other members will attend every event this summer to tell people why they’re opposed.

“To see a group come in and demand public money and public land for this stadium is ridiculous,” Empkie said.

Many of them are opposed to using the former I-195 highway land downtown for a stadium.

“They’re presenting the land as somehow a ghost town, a vacant wasteland when, in fact, the city and the state have been working to prepare that land for the park,” Empkie said.

Doyle said opponents of the stadium are welcome to attend the events and express their concerns.

“People should feel comfortable coming and using the space in whatever way they wish,” Doyle said.

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