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Menino adds a garage to Fenway plan

$72.5m facility linked to revenue

By Meg Vaillancourt, Globe Staff, 7/20/2000

ramatically upping the city's investment in a proposed new Fenway Park, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino yesterday promised not only $140 million to acquire the site but also $72.5 million to finance construction of a parking garage included in the ballpark plan of the Red Sox.

Menino said the city would build the 3,000-car garage and give the team $7 million a year in parking revenues, or roughly half the amount the facility would generate.

Throughout negotiations with city and state officials during the past year, the Red Sox have insisted that they need the parking revenues to help finance the team's $352 million investment in the proposed ballpark project.

The Globe reported yesterday that Menino had decided to increase by $20 million the amount the city would spend to assemble the privately owned parcels needed for the new ballpark and prepare the site for construction. Menino confirmed that he supports increasing the city's contribution from $120 million to $140 million, the figure the team has sought in talks.

The mayor says he isn't worried about the risks of a third term. Adrian Walker column, B1.

But Menino said that the offer is contingent on state approval of one or more proposals to create revenue streams as a way of generating the $11 million a year the city would need to pay the debt service on the $140 million.

''We have stepped up to the plate and agreed to provide more financial assistance without mortgaging the city's future,'' Menino said in an interview. ''There's only one question left to resolve: Will the state give us the revenue streams we need to do this?''

Although only 11 days remain before lawmakers adjourn for the year, Menino insisted there is time to craft a financing agreement and pass a bill authorizing city and state aid for the project before July 31.

''I want this project, and we've proven that it can be structured so the numbers work for everyone,'' Menino said. ''There's enough time to do it. We just need to agree on how the city can get its $11 million a year back.''

Menino's proposal would still require the Red Sox to shoulder the most risky elements of the project. The team would have to cover any construction cost overruns on the new ballpark as well as site acquisition and cleanup costs beyond the city's $140 million limit. Sports financing specialists caution that the Red Sox, who are already struggling to fund their portion of the project, may be unable to assume all the uncapped costs.

But last night Red Sox chief executive John Harrington said the team was heartened by Menino's comments. ''The mayor has taken a tremendous step forward, and it is clear he is doing everything possible to get the new ballpark done,'' Harrington said. ''We appreciate his efforts and look forward to meeting with the mayor and state leaders as soon as possible.''

Menino has pushed a citywide parking surcharge to raise the revenues he is seeking, but Governor Paul Cellucci has adamantly opposed the idea, saying it effectively is a tax on commuters.

Underscoring the strength of his opposition, Cellucci said yesterday he would veto any ballpark bill that included such a surcharge - and make certain lawmakers do not have enough time to take up an override vote before they adjourn.

''I feel pretty strongly about this,'' Cellucci said. ''There will be an effort to impose it on other cities and towns and it will be a commuter tax on working men and women. I do not support it and I will do everything in my power to stop it.''

As a fallback position, Menino said he would support other proposals to recoup the city's investment, including a slight increase in the city's hotel tax, game day parking surcharges, and the use of some state meals and sales taxes collected in a special district that would be created around the new ballpark.

Because these taxes already exist, Cellucci could transfer them to the city without violating his no-new-taxes stance. Depending how the boundaries of a new sales-and-meals district or game-day-parking district are drawn, either idea could raise the $11 million needed to repay the city.

Both Cellucci and Senate president Thomas F. Birmingham appear to support these measures, but House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran's position is unclear. While some observers suggested any disagreements could be resolved if the key political leaders met, Menino said there was no point in scheduling a summit until they can agree on a broad outline of a ballpark financing plan. The mayor said the four leaders continue to talk by phone.

Since Cellucci and Birmingham have endorsed a variety of financing options, Finneran appears to be the political player most likely to make or break the Red Sox bid to pass a financing plan this year.

Finneran was unavailable for comment yesterday. While he has offered support for the Red Sox in the past, in recent weeks he also has warned there may not be sufficient time to take up a new Fenway Park bill before lawmakers adjourn.

Supporters of the project say, however, that the the mayor's proposals are specifically designed to meet Finneran's demands, including that no state funds be used in the construction of a new facility - the same ''principles'' the speaker set down in his tough negotiations with the New England Patriots during their battle for support for a new stadium.

Menino's commitment to build the parking garage removes what had been another possible stumbling block. Finneran had said the state could build the garage but was unwilling to share any of the revenues it generated with the Red Sox. The mayor's plan also does not seek state infrastructure aid to help clean up the proposed site, a proposal Finneral had opposed.

The mayor's ''deal is better for the state because it's public money for public infrastructure on public land,'' said one House member. `It's now a question of whether the speaker wants to do a deal. There's time to do it of he decides there is. It's up to him.''

Menino's plan also will require the Red Sox to repay the balance of the city's investment in the project when the team is sold. Since a new ballpark is expected to substantially increase the value of the Red Sox, the mayor is also eyeing a possible cut of the profits generated when the team is sold.

The mayor's proposal also calls for the trust that controls the Red Sox to commit to more donations to needy Boston charities, and requires the team to set aside an unspecified number of affordable tickets for families.

Because the mayor has committed to building one garage on Brookline Avenue, the team would have to construct its own delivery and storage areas under Boylston Street. The team's plan called for the facilities to be included as part of a second smaller garage on Boylston Street which the team hoped the city would build.

However, Fenway hotelier Robert Sage is weighing a plan to build the garage and allow the team to build the underground facilities as part of redevelopment of the Howard Johnson's hotel he owns on the site. Sage and the Sox are in negotiations, but no agreement has been reached.

This story ran on page A01 of the Boston Globe on 7/20/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.



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