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Sites eyed for a minor league team

Baseball park touted for BU or S. Boston

A Boston lawyer who wants to bring an independent league baseball team to Boston has had preliminary discussions with the mayor and other city officials about possible locations for a 6,000-seat stadium, including Joe Moakley Park in South Boston and Nickerson Field at Boston University.

The lawyer, Alexander Bok, said he also has had preliminary conversations with more than a dozen potential investors about raising the $4 million to $6 million initial investment for the project.

He estimated that a stadium would cost $20 million to $25 million, which would be paid for over time by team revenues. A team, which would be part of the deal, would probably cost an additional $750,000, or slightly more, he said.

''I think we won't have any trouble raising the money to do this," he said, adding that he plans to be a significant investor in the project. ''The challenge is a good location."

A spokesman for Menino, who met with Bok for about an hour last Friday, said the mayor had no comment. Bok said that Menino liked the concept of bringing minor league baseball to the city but that the mayor had concerns about traffic and other issues that might affect neighborhoods.

City Council President Michael Flaherty and state Representative Brian Wallace, South Boston politicians who have met with Bok about the proposal, were intrigued by the idea of minor league baseball in Boston.

''To bring independent league baseball to Boston is something that clearly warrants consideration," Flaherty said.

But locating a park in South Boston may yet be a sticking point, they said, especially at Moakley Park, where baseball fields and other facilities are used heavily by community leagues and groups. Flaherty and Wallace said they would not endorse a minor league park unless neighborhood groups consented.

Bok said he would work closely with neighborhood groups and local officials to address their concerns as he develops a formal proposal. He added that a minor league park could be a great catch for a neighborhood. Youth sports teams, for example, could use the field when the home team isn't there, he said. Families across the city would also get a less expensive, more accessible alternative to the Red Sox, he said.

''In Boston now, on Thursday afternoon, you can't say, 'Let's all go to a baseball game this coming weekend,' " he said. ''And this is a much lower price point, $8 to $10 a ticket. With food and souvenirs, you might spend $20 a person."

Meanwhile, Bok said he is moving ahead on several other fronts: He has signed a formal agreement with National Sports Services, a Colorado-based sports consulting company, to help steer potential franchise negotiations and financial arrangements. He said he plans to go to Missouri next week to meet with architects.

He said he hopes to be in the midst of a community vetting process by the end of the year to break ground by spring 2007 and open the team's first season in spring 2008. He acknowledged that the schedule probably is ambitious, but said he believes Boston is more than ready for a minor league team.

''Some say, besides the Catholic Church and politics, that baseball is the third religion of Boston," he said. ''I think there is an immense interest and unmet need that this could help meet."

Bok said he has discussed a possible expansion team in Boston with executives of two independent baseball leagues: the Canadian American League, which has teams in Worcester, Brockton and Lynn, and the Atlantic League, which has teams in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Both leagues require existing team owners to approve new teams, he said.

Ted Tye -- chairman of the board of the Worcester Tornadoes, which had its first season last year -- said that adding a Boston team would only stoke enthusiasm for the sport across the region.

''It's a religion for all of us," he said. ''And with any religion, you need a bunch of churches."

A stadium would require about 8 acres. Although other possible locations may arise, Bok said, Nickerson Field and Joe Moakley Park are attractive because they are close to highways and MBTA stops; they have space for parking; and they are in ''areas that are safe and welcoming to people of all communities."

Bok said he spoke with Boston University officials about the possibility of building a park on Nickerson Field, the site of the former Braves Field, where the Boston Braves played from 1915 to 1952. It is now BU's largest athletic field, used for intercollegiate sports, as well as professional men's lacrosse and intermural competitions, according to the university's website.

Bok said that spectators could use parking for BU's 7,200-seat Agganis Arena, and that games could be scheduled so they would not overlap with events at the arena or with Red Sox games.

Joe Moakley Park is a 57-acre tract that runs just off Interstate 93's Exit 15, bounded by William J. Day Boulevard and Columbia Road. About 16 youth and adult sports leagues use its soccer, baseball, and football fields, bringing about 2,000 people on weekdays and 13,000 people on weekends from April to November.

Bok said his initial thought was to build a field at the site of a relatively new football field at the north end of the park. The team would find a way to accommodate community sports teams that might be displaced by a new ball field, he said. The team is looking into a parking agreement with the Bayside Expo & Conference Center across the street, which Bok said has a large parking lot.

Charles Euchner, who has written extensively about baseball and the business of baseball and who served from 2000 to 2004 as executive director of the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, said he thought independent baseball could be a huge success in Boston.

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