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New ballpark funding may tap non-fans

Surcharge would hit area shoppers

By Meg Vaillancourt, Globe Staff, and Daniel Barbarisi, Globe Correspondent, 8/12/2000

ed Sox fans know they will have to pay more to see the team play in a new Fenway Park, but many people who never set foot in the ballpark may also be forced to help fund the $664 million project. Under the ballpark bill that became law this week, drivers who park within a mile of the facility may be required to pay a $5-per-car surcharge every time the Red Sox play at home. As a result, Copley Place shoppers, Landmark Cinema patrons, and anyone parking at the Prudential Center or in lots near Ruggles Station could be hit with the fee at least 81 days a year.

Many businesses located within the one-mile zone, most of which have no ties to the new ballpark, voiced concern that the additional fee could lead to a decline in customers.

"It will make it harder for our business," said Matilde Barbosa of 1 Hour Photo near Copley Place. "Everybody already complains about how much parking around here costs."

However, city officials, who under the ballpark bill will decide which commercial parking spaces will be subject to the surcharge, insisted that the fee will target Red Sox fans.

"The intent is very, very clear," said Ed Collins, the city's treasurer-collector, who is responsible for implementing the new parking zone fee. "We are looking for Red Sox fans to help pay for the new ballpark. So we will be focusing on people who are driving in to see a game, not someone going to visit the barber in Kenmore Square."

The special fee will help repay the city's $140 million investment in acquiring and cleaning up the proposed ballpark site in the Fenway. In addition to the parking surcharge, the city will be repaid through a 5 percent surcharge on Sox tickets, a 15 percent surcharge on luxury boxes at the new ballpark, and a slight hike in the city's hotel tax.

Together the fees will generate the roughly $11 million a year in revenues needed to pay the annual debt service on the city's investment. About $3.6 million a year will be generated by the parking surcharge, which will go into effect two hours before games begin.

Although the city still has to develop specific regulations covering the parking surcharge, the law calls for a special Fenway parking management zone of "not less than 9,000 spaces" in commercial lots and garages. The $5 fee will be imposed "within a 1-mile radius centered at the northeast corner of the intersection of Yawkey Way and Van Ness Street."

There are approximately 20,000 parking spaces within the 1-mile zone, but under the ballpark bill, spaces used by "faculty, students, staff, or persons having legitimate business at universities within the zone, area hospital employees, and health care facility parking are exempt" from the parking surcharge.

"No one who is going to the doctor is going to forced to pay for Fenway Park," Collins said yesterday.

The city's collector-treasurer has the power to exempt other groups, and Collins expects that the list of exemptions will grow as the city defines the parking regulations. Religious institutions and other non-profits seem unlikely to be targeted for the surcharge as long as they do not rent their lots out to game-day fans.

Shoppers and movie-goers in the 1-mile zone could also be exempt. For example, their parking stubs could be stamped when they make a purchase a ticket or as they enter a theater, Collins said. Red Sox fans who park at shopping and movie garages in the area and do not have a stamped stub would still pay the $5 fee.

"The proof will be in the pudding of how we draft the regulations," Collins said. "But there are ways we can design it so it doesn't hurt area businesses."

The surcharge was purposefully spread out over a mile to ensure that the city could collect fees from Sox fans parking in the Prudential Center garages. Surveys done by the team last year showed that many fans park there.

Some Pru shopowners worried, however, that potential customers might still be frightened off by signs at local lots and garages notifying them of the potential surcharge.

"Parking is outrageous already," said Sarah Kennen, a clerk at the World of Science, a shop in the Prudential Center. "A lot of people who shop here aren't from Boston, and that's who's going to get hit by this."

Others were less concerned.

"In the begining everybody's going to gripe, but I don't think it will affect my businesses or the ones around me," said Ed Elfar, owner of Copley Jewelers in Copley Place. "And I think everyone benefits indirectly. Even people who are not going to the ballpark benefit because the development helps out the entire area."

City officials cautioned that not everyone can be exempt. Unless the city can be assured at least 9,000 cars will pay the fee, the city would not raise enough revenue to recoup its full investment. Collins said that a final list of which commercial spaces will be covered by the surcharge will not be ready for months.

While the parking surcharge covers a large area, Copley Place shoppers and movie-goers may win a reprieve. The one-mile area includes the Pru but just barely covers a corner of Copley Place. As a result, it's unclear if the Copley Place garages will be required to pay the $5 surcharge, although one official joked that patrons of the upscale mall could afford the fees.

Commercial parking rates in Boston have risen dramatically in recent years. The Globe reported last week that city now has among the highest rates in the country.

City officials charged with developing the parking surcharge regulations yesterday offered a postive spin, arguing they may serve to encourage more drivers to use mass transit.

Under the Fenway Park bill, the state is investing $100 million in infrastructure improvements, with a substantial portion of the funds for upgrading Green and Orange line service on the MBTA system and some commuter rail service to Yawkey Station. Game-day parking lots around 88-year-old Fenway Park now charge baseball fans $20-$25 a car to park near the ballpark.

This story ran on page A01 of the Boston Globe on 8/12/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.



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