he Red Sox would struggle to increase revenue and attract fans if the club follows through with plans to tear down Fenway Park and build a new stadium, according to a study released yesterday by Save Fenway Park and consumer activist Ralph Nader.
The study, conducted by economics professor Robert A. Baade of Lake Forest College in suburban Chicago, found the Red Sox are among the most financially competitive teams in baseball. And with the Red Sox expected to take on the largest commitment of private funds in sports history to build a new stadium, potentially upward of $350 million, the study questioned the team's ability to field a winning ballclub with huge debt.
''The new stadium proposal could be financially dangerous,'' said Paul Shannon, research director for Save Fenway Park, a group dedicated to preserving the 89-year-old stadium through renovation. ''The message of this study is really a message for the fans. Do you want to lose the best ballpark in the game and hurt the team?''
Shannon said Save Fenway Park has proposed renovation plans ranging from $160 million to $260 million, substantially less than the proposed $665 million stadium to be built adjacent to Fenway Park.
After analyzing overall revenue and gate receipts of new stadiums in Baltimore, Texas, Cleveland, and Colorado compared with Fenway, Baade said in the study that, ''If the new ballpark is financed primarily by private means, the money a new stadium generates will not be going primarily to free agents; rather it will be used to service and retire debt.''
Baade also emphasized Fenway's value as a tourist attraction, comparing it to Chicago's Wrigley Field which regularly draws large crowds to Cubs games, despite a losing team. The novelty of a new ballpark wears off, he said.
Debate surrounding a new stadium comes at an awkward time for the Red Sox ownership, who are in the process of selling one of the most storied franchises - and stadiums - in baseball history. Red Sox CEO John Harrington has emphasized the need to upgrade baseball's oldest and smallest park to be financially competitive with new stadiums around the country.
''The need for a new ballpark is undeniable,'' said Jim Healy, vice president of broadcast and special projects for the Red Sox.
Isaac Baker can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.