By Eddie Medina, Boston.com Staff, 05/19/00
Critics were quick to respond to the Red Sox' plan to finance a new ballpark in the Fenway as the team presented their proposal to the media today.
"There are no surprises here," said Rob Sargent, legislative director for Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, known as MASSPIRG. "The only thing that's changed ... is that the amount of money taxpayers will be on the hook for has grown."
Critics like Sargent suspect the cost will rise over time, and they blasted the team for the secrecy surrounding the new plan. Team officials do not expect overruns and did not specify today how they would be financed should they occur.
Sargent was speaking on behalf of Citizens Against Stadium Subsidies, which includes a number of other groups that have criticized the Red Sox proposal and the New England Patriots' stadium plan. The group held a press conference today to voice their ire for the Sox' plan.
Sargent said he was wary of the team unveiling their plan to the media, before approaching state and city policy makers.
Paul Shannon, who represents members of American Friends Services Committee in the opposition group, agreed. "To purport this so late in the legislative session, and after more than a year of attempts at backroom maneuvering should tell you something," he said. The legislative deadline is July 31.
Sargent also denounced the part of the plan that would require the city of Boston to pay $90 million to acquire land for the stadium, then lease it back to the Red Sox. "The city might argue about leasing the land, [but] they're losing tax revenue on that land," Sargent said.
Barbara Anderson of Citizens for Limited Taxation, another member of the coalition opposing the deal, noted that the proposal comes at a time when state legislators reinstituted two registry fees to pay for massive Big Dig cost overruns.
"The Red Sox financing plan is an exercise in Big Dig economics," said Peter Catalano, president of the Fenway Action Coalition, which is also a member of the opposition group.
"The Sox are floating a financial Trojan horse, low-balling the cost elements of their plan while overstating the revenues. The bottom line is that this is a formula to soak taxpayers for at least $560 million," said Catalano, a longtime activist in the city's Fenway neighborhood. The Fenway hosts the park and has experienced enormous growth and gentrification over the past decade.
The Red Sox have said a new Fenway Park would cost $627 million. The plan unveiled today by the Red Sox calls for the team to pay the $352 million cost of the new park itself, with the state and city contributing $275 million to buy land, build parking garages and upgrade transportation infrastructure.
"The team will be so debt-ridden, it won't be able to afford the best players," said Dan Wilson of Save Fenway Park!, another member of the opposition group. "Seattle learned that it could not have both a new stadium and Ken Griffey Jr. We don't want to have to say goodbye to Nomar and/or Pedro."