Loss of Benny’s may aid push to save PawSox
PROVIDENCE – Losing an Ocean State stalwart such as Benny’s has been tough news to digest.
With Rhode Island’s Senate Finance Committee holding hearings at the Statehouse on Thursday night on the proposal to build a new PawSox ballpark in downtown Pawtucket, last week’s announcement that the 93-year-old Southern New England department store chain plans to close was still top of mind. Some supporters of the ballpark plan believe critics of the deal might be willing to reconsider their stance.
“I feel sadness and nostalgia about Benny’s closing, but it’s also exponential as it relates to the PawSox,” said State Senator Donna Nesselbush, D-Pawtucket. “Just like Rhode Islanders loved Benny’s, the PawSox are also a Rhode Island icon. We need to look at the details of the proposal, but let’s get it so that it’s a winwin for everybody so that we can build a stadium for the PawSox to stay in Pawtucket.”
“We’re talking about two iconic businesses. One decided to close, but one is looking to the future and wanting to be more of an iconic part of that future,” said John Gregory, veteran CEO of the Northern Rhode Island Chamber. “Granted the PawSox haven’t been around as long as Benny’s, but something like Benny’s was beyond the state’s control. This is something that we can control.”
Watching the PawSox pack up and leave Pawtucket would prove yet another crippling blow for a state that lately seems be saying goodbye to longstanding entities such as Benny’s on a far too frequent basis.
“I’m hopeful that all the factors that are going around will contribute to this cause. We’re always miserable after we lose something, but we don’t fight to keep it,” said Pawtucket mayor Donald Grebien. “This is one we need to fight to keep. It means so much to us. We have a chance to keep Triple-A baseball in the city and we’re going to do it.”
Judging by Thursday’s strong turnout by the labor workers, city mayors, local business owners and officials from Pawtucket organizations, the future of TripleA baseball in the Ocean State is a fight worth undertaking.
“You don’t want to lose another piece of Rhode Island, which is what the PawSox are,” said Timothy Byrne, business manager for Local 51. “We have to stem the tide of jobs leaving this state. That’s what created the mess we’re in now. There’s a proven track record for this business and I think it’s a great idea.”
The chance to save Benny’s has come and gone. As PawSox chairman Mike Tamburro noted, the opportunity to ensure that another one of the state’s unique features doesn’t suffer a similar fate is at hand.
“We as a state need to be proud of the institutions we cherish and we need to build them up,” stated Tamburro, speaking as chants of “Save our Sox” echoed throughout the Statehouse during a rally organized by the Rhode Island Building Trades and AFL-CIO prior to Thursday’s Senate Finance Committee hearing.